New Zealand pipped by South Africa in ODI thriller in Hamilton
Should New Zealand's misbehaving summer allow a full one-day international in the coming fortnight, New Zealand will fancy their chances of ending South Africa's winning run.
The tourists took a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series in Hamilton on Sunday night by winning a nail-biting reduced-overs contest by four wickets with one ball remaining.
Captain AB de Villiers was just the man his side needed in a tight tussle, making an unbeaten 37 off 34 balls and slamming a four off the penultimate ball to clinch the win.
Chasing New Zealand's 207-7 under lights at Seddon Park, the Proteas registered 210-6, with Andile Phehlukwayo helping out with a massively handy 29 not out off 23 deliveries.
That followed the visitors' romp to victory in the one-off Twenty20 clash at Eden Park on Friday night and extended South Africa's winning run in ODIs to 12 matches - equalling their most successful run.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock made 69 off 64 deliveries (nine fours and a six) at the top of the order before de Villiers staved off a middle-order slump to guide his troops home.
But the hosts will have taken plenty of hope from pushing the world's number one ranked side so close.
New Zealand's frontline spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi looked likely as they got turn and bounce from the pitch but that wasn't accompanied by the necessary haul of wickets to halt South Africa's initial march.
Sodhi troubled all of the top order in taking 1-36 off his seven overs while Santner, who bowled well at the same venue in the win over Australia a fortnight ago, also impressed with 1-33.
Tim Southee set the cat among the pigeons by taking two wickets in as many balls to remove JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien in the 23rd over as South Africa began to wobble at 126-5 but de Villiers stood firm.
New Zealand's total of 207-7 was only made truly competitive by captain Kane Williamson's innings and a late flurry from Colin de Grandhomme and Southee.
South Africa's Chris Morris blasted his side into pole position by capturing four early wickets.
The gangly Morris, who would be otherwise employed as a crane if his levers were much longer, took 4-62 from his seven overs on a wicket that seemed it should be more suited to the spin bowlers.
His figures took a huge blow in his final over - the last of the NZ innings - when he conceded 25 runs to the combination of de Grandhomme and Southee. De Grandhomme made an unbeaten 34 off 19 balls and Southee 24 not out off 13 to give their side some renewed hope after South Africa dictated terms for almost all of the innings.
The steepling bounce and pace of Morris accounted for Dean Brownlie and Neil Broom and he had Ross Taylor, not wanted for the Twenty20 side, caught and bowled for one off three balls.
New Zealand's major resistance came from Williamson, who made 59 off 53 balls (with two sixes and four fours).
Brownlie made another useful fist as opener in place of the again-injured Martin Guptill as he contributed 31 off 39 balls before being caught on the mid-wicket boundary off the first ball from Morris's second stint at the bowling crease. But apart from the 50-run partnership for the second wicket, there was little for the home fans to cheer until the late flourish.
Opener-wicketkeeper Tom Latham's woes with the bat in recent ODIs continued as he made an 11-ball duck - his fourth consecutive single-figure score in the format.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who was the star of South Africa's Twenty20 victory, was brought into the attack in the eighth over of NZ's dig but Williamson played him well and he went wicketless from his seven overs.
Left-arm chinaman spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was guilty of bowling too short at the start of his spell but found his length in a maiden over to James Neesham and then captured the big wicket of Williamson in his next over when the captain went back to cut a delivery that spun back into him and produced an inside edge down onto his stumps.
New Zealand v South Africa
Seddon Park, Hamilton
D Brownlie c Behardien b Morris 31
T Latham lbw Morris 0
K Williamson b Shamsi 59
R Taylor c & b Morris 1
N Broom c Behardien b Morris 2
J Neesham c de Kock b Rabada 29
M Santner c de Kock b Rabada 17
C de Grandhomme not out 34
T Southee not out 24
Extras (1b, 9wd) 10
Total (for 7 wickets, 34.0 overs) 207
Fall: 19, 69, 72, 82, 108, 136, 156
Bowling: K Rabada 7-1-31-2 (3w), C Morris 7-0-62-4 (1w), A Phehlukwayo 5-0-28-0 (1w), Imran Tahir 7-0-42-0, T Shamsi 7-1-39-1, JP Duminy 1-0-4-0.
Q de Kock c Taylor b Boult 69
H Amla c & b Williamson 35
F du Plessis lbw Sodhi 14
AB de Villiers not out 37
JP Duminy c & b Southee 1
F Behardien b Southee 0
C Morris c Boult b Santner 16
A Phehlukwayo not out 29
Extras (2b, 3lb, 4wd) 9
Total (for 6 wickets, 33.5 overs) 210
Fall: 88, 117, 125, 126, 126, 156.
Bowling: M Santner 7-0-33-1, T Boult 7-0-45-1, T Southee 6.5-0-47-2 (2w), C de Grandhomme 4-0-27-0, I Sodhi 7-0-36-1, K Williamson 2-0-17-1 (1w).
South Africa won by four wickets.