SA lays World Cup ghosts to rest
The Proteas made good on their threat to avenge their heartbreaking 2015 Cricket World Cup semifinal defeat to New Zealand at Eden Park by winning when it mattered to clinch the five-game one-day international (ODI) series between 3-2 yesterday.
While a World Cup final was not at stake this time around, South Africa banished the nightmare that the Auckland ground had come to represent for them after they lost yet another crucial knockout game at a World Cup due to selectorial interference from outside the team.
The Proteas – thanks to their six-wicket win with 17.4 overs remaining after an aggressive bowling and fielding effort – remain on top of the ODI rankings pile, ahead of their three-match England series and the ICC Champions Trophy competition.
The win – New Zealand’s first series defeat at home in nine games – was rooted in a ruthless bowling performance, led by man of the match Kagiso Rabada, and allied to some incredible fielding by Russell Domingo’s men.
The batsmen then had to quell something of a rebellion by the Black Caps bowlers on a lively wicket – an effort held together by Faf du Plessis, who was unbeaten on 51 at the end.
Rabada, who ended up with figures of 3/25, had started the rot by setting up Hamilton hero Martin Guptill with the old bouncer and yorker routine, getting him out for 176 runs, less than the 180 he scored in helping New Zealand level the series.
He was ably supported by Imran Tahir, whose 2/14 off 10 overs were the best figures from a South African spinner, and Andile Phehlukwayo, who marked his return from a mild groin strain with the useful numbers of 2/35.
The fielding was as lively as the pitch and the bowling – the Black Caps, including captain Kane Williamson (by AB de Villiers) and Mitchell Santner (by JP Duminy), were thwarted via run outs.
When it was their turn to bat, openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock went cheaply, but Du Plessis dug deep on a wicket on which Tim Southee often looked unplayable and he was the anchor that saw the visitors home.