They made it difficult for themselves at times, but in the end South Africa did enough to beat New Zealand by 62 runs and clinch the three-match series 2-1 in Durban on Wednesday.
Chasing 284 for victory, New Zealand could only manage to reach 221 in 49.2 overs.
AB de Villiers will be a relieved man after another poor performance in the field threatened to derail South Africa’s chances of defending their competitive total of 283-7.
To be fair, both teams have been poor in the field over the three-match series. New Zealand dropped four catches and the Proteas dropped three.
Kepler Wessels said during commentary for SuperSport that a total of 16 catches had been dropped by the two teams in this series.
This victory ensured that South Africa didn’t lose their second consecutive ODI series and it also prevented a weakened New Zealand side winning their second successive ODI series in South Africa.
The Black Caps were in control of their run-chase and the game after they lost the early wicket of Martin Guptill as Tom Latham (54) and Kane Williamson (39) shared an 84-run partnership for the second wicket.
Williamson was dropped by David Miller off Kagiso Rabada’s bowling with his score on 24 and New Zealand on 79-1. It was a shocker of a drop, and things got worse when Rabada dropped the New Zealand captain again on 37 off Farhaan Behardien with a streaky diving attempt.
Luckily for the home side, Imran Tahir bowled Williamson in the next over when the batsman came down the wicket. Three dot balls had preceded his wicket which forced Williamson into the mistake.
Tahir was his usual reliant self with figures of 2-36 in 10 overs. David Wiese was a player under pressure to perform in this game. Although he didn’t do much with the bat and was at times expensive with the ball, he still managed to take 3-58 by removing the middle order of George Worker, Grant Elliott and Colin Munro.
Elliott, who made 20, was dropped by Hashim Amla at first slip with his score on 18 off Kyle Abbott. On another day South Africa might not have been this lucky to remove batsmen shortly after they were dropped.
Rabada (2-33) also bowled well and his development as a fast bowler is well on track now.
New Zealand lost too many wickets in quick succession towards the end which made South Africa’s total well out of reach.
Morne van Wyk (58) and Hashim Amla (44) got their team off to the best possible start as they shared an 89-run opening partnership.
Rilee Rossouw didn’t last long, caught at slip, but De Villiers (64) came good with the bat for the first time in this series and in the process became the fastest to 8 000 ODI runs. He took just 182 innings and is now third overall from a South African point of view with only Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs above him with more runs.
De Villiers shared an 86-run partnership with David Miller (36) who was good value for his runs before he was caught behind off the bowling of Adam Milne.
Farhaan Behardien anchored the tail-end with a valuable 40 before he was out off the last ball of the innings trying to clear the boundary.