Woes set aside as Black Caps win ODI series
Suddenly, memories of 45 all out at Newlands - and even the Ross Taylor captaincy saga - are starting to fade.
It will take more than a couple of one-day international wins for disillusioned cricket followers to forgive and forget, particularly the handling of Taylor-gate, but more results like this in the Mike Hesson-Brendon McCullum era might help dull the memories a little.
Hesson, in particular, can perhaps breathe a sigh of relief.
The coach has been pilloried by all and sundry and the inept displays in the two tests in South Africa earlier this month were nothing short of embarrassing.
New Zealand Cricket had plumbed new depths and he was in the thick of it.
But we've seen resilience, fight, and skill in the one-day internationals.
Most crucially, we have seen back-to-back wins, and nothing eases pressure in professional sport like a tick in the W column.
Some notable and worthy milestones were reached in yesterday's 27-run win in Kimberley, which put New Zealand 2-0 up in the three-match series.
They secured their first series victory in any format in 60 years of playing international cricket in South Africa; the five run-outs effected in South Africa's innings equalled the world record; and Kane Williamson's unbeaten 145 from 136 balls was the sixth highest score by a Kiwi in an ODI, and highest against a top-tier nation.
The icing on the cake? New Zealand leap-frogged Bangladesh into eighth in the world rankings after the series win over the world No 3.
A small step, but at least it is a forward step.
McCullum's captaincy reign could not have started in worse fashion, following two innings hidings in the tests, but now the tour might well be remembered for a history-making series win, which he described as one of New Zealand's best in coloured clothing.
"To beat South Africa in South Africa is some achievement that we will hold onto for a long time. I'm not going to underplay it," he said.
"We knew how big this series was. South Africa were ranked No 1 coming into it and us at No 9, and playing them in their own conditions.
"I think the characteristics we showed in the first game flowed on to this one. I'm very proud of each and every individual, and really pleased to be able to show some love for the fans back home who have stuck by us during some tough times."
McCullum credited the fresh outlook the ODI specialists had brought to the squad but also paid tribute to the work the whole squad had put in on tour, even when results were dreadful.
"Everyone throughout the tour has worked hard. We were beaten 2-1 in the T20s, outplayed in the tests, but we're getting a little bit of fruit for our labour now."
Williamson's knock was the catalyst for the win. He walked to the crease at 0-1 and walked off after slamming his first six, from the last ball of the 50th over, propelling New Zealand to 279-8.
It was an innings of rare quality, paced perfectly, with an array of shots. As good as you will see from a New Zealander in limited overs cricket.
His 127-run partnership with Grant Elliott (48) was critical, as was his ability to battle through cramp.
"He took his time up front and played brilliantly," South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said. "You could see he was cramping but he didn't throw his wicket away. It was a great knock."
Williamson rather modestly preferred to deflect praise on New Zealand's fielding. South Africa were cruising at 167-1 but lost 9-85, including five run-outs, to be all out for 252 in the final over.
Some of the inner-circle work from the likes of Nathan McCullum and Martin Guptill was New Zealand back at its best.
"We were probably behind the game but the run out of Graeme Smith (for 66) lifted the team and we got in the zone in the field," Williamson said.
The two teams play a dead rubber in Potchefstroom on Saturday before New Zealand focus on England's tour. McCullum summed the situation up.
"There are areas to work on, definitely, but let's not underplay what we've achieved."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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