The Proteas bowlers fired South Africa to a six-wicket win in Auckland as the visitors clinched the series 3-2.
South Africa have relied heavily on their batting line-up for much of the five-game series in New Zealand. In the second and fourth ODIs, however, the contributions of AB de Villiers and company proved insufficient, and the Proteas were left to lament their inconsistent bowling performances.
The pressure was on the South African bowlers to deliver in the series decider at Eden Park. They did not disappoint. Kagiso Rabada led the charge with three wickets – a haul that included the key scalp of Martin Guptill – and the visitors managed to bundle New Zealand out for 149.
New Zealand came into the fifth ODI on the back of a seven-wicket victory in Hamilton. Guptill scored 180 at Seddon Park, and was identified as one of the potential game-changers in the series at Eden Park.
The dismissal of Guptill for 4 was thus a massive moment in the contest. Rabada speared a 145km/h delivery at the stumps, and as the dangerous New Zealand batsman departed, the Proteas celebrated accordingly.
Yet the visitors were anything but complacent in the wake of Guptill’s dismissal. They continued to bowl an excellent line and length, and De Villiers continued to make excellent tactical decisions.
While the Proteas put down several catches, their ground fielding was outstanding. De Villiers ran out Kane Williamson, while JP Duminy’s direct hit ended the burgeoning partnership between Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner.
Andile Phehlukwayo and Imran Tahir supported with two wickets apiece, but Rabada was the Proteas’ star bowling attraction. South Africa’s premier strike bowler claimed New Zealand’s 10th wicket to ensure the hosts were bowled out inside 42 overs.
The Proteas’ chase was was far from flawless. The visitors lost three early wickets, and after a rebuilding effort by Faf du Plessis and De Villiers, the captain departed with the score at 88-4.
Du Plessis and David Miller then clubbed together for a 62-run partnership and steered South Africa to what was, in the end, a comfortable victory.
NZ 149 (41.1 overs) – Colin de Grandhomme 32, Jimmy Neesham 24, Kagiso Rabada 3-25, Imran Tahir 2-14
SA 150-4 (32.2 overs) – Faf du Plessis 51 not out, David Miller 45 not out, AB de Villiers 23, Jeetan Patel 2-26
South Africa won by six wickets
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images