The deciding fifth ODI between New Zealand and South Africa was supposed to be a thriller. Everyone expected it to be one. The entire series had panned out in a zig-zag manner where both the team exchanged leads one after another. The venue also served as the perfect setting. Six of New Zealand’s last eight ODIs in Eden Park, Auckland produced a nail bitter.
But, sadly for the home crowd, the Saturday afternoon was nothing like what it used to be in the past games. South Africa, backed by their hostile bowling, completely subdued the Blackcaps batting attack to register a complete rout and win the decisive rubber by __ wickets.
AB de Villiers won the toss for the fifth successive time in the series and rightly chose to make the Black Caps bat first. The hosts saw a shabby show from the top order. The top five featuring openers Martin Guptill, Den Brownlie, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Luke Ronchi managed just 53 runs combined.
With the core of the batting line up succumbing without any significance, only a gritty performance from the lower middle order could have helped them revive the innings. All-rounders James Neesham (24 from 24 balls), Mitchell Santner (24 from 50 balls), and Colin de Grandhomme (32 from 48 balls) tried their bit in getting their team back on track but could not survive against the Proteas pace bowling and were bundled out for just 149 with eight overs to spare.
Kagiso Rabada led the charge with the ball, bowling a spell of 3/25. His freaky opening spell and timely strikes at different stages of the innings ensured the opposition kept losing wickets on a regular basis. Andile Phelukwayo, with his nippy bowling, strengthened his reputation further with an impressive 2/35 which accounted for the wickets of the most dangerous batsmen in the host’s batting order – Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir deserves a special applause for his miserly effort. He gave away nothing but singles, took two wickets at the cost of 14 runs in his 10 overs spell and ended with the most economical spell ever bowled by a Proteas spinner in the ODIs.
The one-sided result was sort of unexpected, at least if we look at the manner both teams competed throughout the series. New Zealand showed weaknesses but they kept coming back. They batting woes but their odds became stronger once star opener Martin Guptill was brought back to the side. South Africa also shared batting woes but eked out the opposition with the help of a much stronger bowling attack.
The chase wasn’t an easy peasy one for South Africa and maintained a cautious approach with the bat. The win was largely possible due to Faf du Plessis’s 51 and David Miller’s important support with an unbeaten 45 runs knock. The duo’s performances were critical in the simple win which was they Proteas secured. If they had failed, the match would have gone in a different direction most probably.
Jeetan Patel, who opened the bowling brought immediate breakthrough with the wicket of Quinton de Kock. After consuming 28 balls to gather 8 runs, Hashim Amla also departed, leaving South Africa at 35/2. Du Plessis’ did a fabulous job by maintaining the momentum of the chase with his counter-attacking approach. The scoreboard slowly moved forward. But, JP Duminy, who came in at no.4, also met with failure and dented the chase a bit after losing his wicket in the 16th over.
Du Plessis found brief support in AB de Villiers and put 40 runs for the 5th wicket to take their team closer to the win. But, New Zealand added a touch of zing when they were able to get rid if De Villiers in the 22nd over. James Neesham’s well-directed bouncer got the Proteas skipper in two states of mind – whether to duck or hit it. He finally decided to attack the ball but failed to connect and gloved it to the wicket keeper to bring his downfall.
The contest looked set for another thriller but David Miller ensured the visitors didn’t have to deal with any high-pressure situation. The out of form left-hander came back to form on the right occasion and stayed till the end to finish the job with the steady Du Plessis at the other end. The pair accelerated the chase and added up the 62 runs required to win just 10.2 overs to complete an emphatic series victory.
New Zealand: 149 all out (Colin de Grandhomme 32; Kagiso Rabada 3/25)
South Africa: 150/4 in 32.2 overs (Faf du Plessis 51; Jeetan Patel 2/26)
Man of the Match: Kagiso Rabada