Klusener, Kallis see SA through in rain-hit scramble
By his own standards, Lance Klusener has had a quiet time of it in the Standard Bank one-day series against New Zealand, but on Kingsmead on Wednesday night he showed that there's still a bit left in the great lump of wood he uses as a bat.
Klusener's ferocious onslaught in the fifth match of the series brought him 41 off 18 balls, the last 27 coming off just seven deliveries as the game was snatched away from New Zealand for South Africa to win by six wickets and take a 4-0 lead in the series.
The South Africans had been chasing a revised target of 153 off 32 overs after two rain breaks while New Zealand were batting ended their innings at 114 for five off 32.4 overs. It might have looked tricky for the home side but Jacques Kallis batted through after coming in at the end of the second over of the innings, and Klusener battered the last of the life left out of New Zealand to see South Africa home with nine balls remaining.
Kallis took the man of the match award, finishing not out on 50 to add to his 100th ODI wicket - picked up when he ripped out Roger Twose's middle stump - and two catches at slip. The award might just as easily have gone to Klusener, though, as South Africa again denied New Zealand with another confident and assured performance.
Kallis had to survive an awful blow to the nether regions when he was hit amidships by Shayne O'Connor. So fierce was the blow that it shattered his box and he noted afterwards (with his voice back to its usual pitch) that he was thinking of asking his sponsors for a couple of extras and might employ three protectors in future.
But while nothing really serious can seem to go wrong for the South Africans, New Zealand remain stuck in the starting blocks. They were caught on a tricky pitch that offered bounce and lateral movement, lost two early wickets, rebuilt their innings through Stephen Fleming and Twose and then had to rebuild it again after both went in the space of six balls.
"We're getting closer to competing well enough," said Fleming afterwards, "but we're certainly not happy with not getting over the mark. It's frustrating."
This was, perhaps, the closest of the four matches won by South Africa in the series after the adjustment. In effect, the South Africans had to face four fewer deliveries than New Zealand, but were asked to score 39 more. Kallis wasn't the only one at Kingsmead somewhat perplexed by the arithmetic of it, but in victory he was able to concede that "I don't think they've come up with the right system yet, but it's probably the best system so far".
The South Africans claimed afterwards that they always felt they had the match in hand. This nonchalance may have stemmed from the fact that they chased down the target with a bit to spare, but it is also the product of the confidence that comes from winning.
"They've got a number of quality players throughout their batting," said Fleming. "Klusener hasn't done it in this series for a while, so he was due his turn. It's nice when you get into that rotation and we've had it. We had it against the West Indies at home. It's a confidence thing. You know you want to be it and someone else is going to do it as well. Once you get on that roll, it's a case of keeping it."
New Zealand, though, haven't managed to peg down that elusive "it" since leaving Kenya. There's one last chance in the final match of the series at Newlands on Saturday and for the sake of the confidence of the entire squad with the Test series lying ahead, they desperately need to break the rhythm of defeat.