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The Report by Andrew Fernando
February 25, 2012
South Africa 254 for 4 (de Villiers 106*, du Plessis 66*) beat New Zealand 253 for 9 (B McCullum 56, Williamson 55) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A masterful run-a-ball 106 not out from AB de Villers shepherded an expert South Africa chase, as they hauled in New Zealand's 253 for 9 with six wickets and 4.4 overs to spare, taking the early series lead with victory in the first ODI in Wellington. de Villiers found support from JP Duminy after New Zealand took three wickets inside the mandatory Powerplay, before he pushed for the win alongside a more adventurous Faf du Plessis, who ended with an unbeaten 66 from 49 deliveries. The pair's 129-run stand swung the match decisively in their team's favour, after the South Africa bowlers had done well to restrict New Zealand earlier in the day.
de Villiers was calculating throughout his innings. Having arrived at the crease almost six overs after JP Duminy but quickly moved past his partner's score, despite taking few chances against a miserly New Zealand attack. Gaps in the infield were expertly picked out, with the signature downward dab to third man proving particularly fruitful. Boundaries were occasional, measured and superbly executed - coming only off bad balls, and just when South Africa needed to prevent the asking-rate from ballooning.
He was calm alongside Duminy, as the pair overcame three early losses, but was clinical when Faf du Plessis was at the other end, powering towards victory with the innings consolidated. His successive sixes off Rob Nicol in 40th over during the Powerplay confirmed South Africa's ascendancy after a tense middle period, and pulled the required-rate to well below a run-a-ball. From there on, with six wickets in hand and 50 to get, it was South Africa's game to lose. Pressure eased, they galloped to the finish.
New Zealand will be disappointed given their terrific start with the ball, but will also rightly feel they did little wrong. South Africa's chase was on track to be the highest ODI score without any extras, until one was conceded in the 43rd over - a fact that is testament to New Zealand's discipline. Nicol's figures of 1 for 43 from five overs does not flatter his competent offspin, while Doug Bracewell too will feel he did not deserve to go at almost six an over. They were simply singled out and targeted by South Africa's batsmen, who were in supreme control, having insidiously garnered momentum following the early wobble.
The New Zealand pacemen did not find the extravagant movement South Africa induced at the beginning of the innings, but were precise in the early overs, using bounce and modest swing to exact their early scalps. Hashim Amla fell prey to a slight indipper from Tim Southee, before Graeme Smith departed two balls later, flashing at an angled delivery from Kyle Mills that was pouched by the keeper. Jacques Kallis seemed comfortable as he probed the gaps confidently for his 13, but was late on a pull shot off Doug Bracewell and managed only to surrender his wicket to square leg.
Duminy and de Villiers combined for a steady 90 to rescue the visitors from 35 for three, dealing almost exclusively in singles, almost mirroring New Zealand's approach at a similar stage in their innings. Nathan McCullum was miserly through the bowling Powerplay, as New Zealand's infielders helped extend the parsimony as South Africa took few risks. Duminy had in fact made 34 of his eventual 46, before he struck his first boundary.
du Plessis was a more proactive foil for de Villiers, as he struck four boundaries in successive Tim Southee overs not long after his arrival at the crease, while his captain progressed as he had done from the start of his innings - finding the gaps and ensuring genuinely bad balls were duly punished.
The two accelerated during the batting Powerplay, taken at its latest possible stage, scoring 45 from the five overs to swing the equation decidedly in their favour. It was clever, uncomplicated hitting, reliant on timing and placement rather than innovative frills, and when both men reached their milestones - de Villiers his 13th ton and du Plessis his fourth fifty - in the same expensive Bracewell over, the end was within touching distance.
The win had been set up by South Africa's fearsome pace-bowling inquisition at the top of the New Zealand's innings, and a canny performance at the death, that helped restrict the hosts to 253 for 9. Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn tested the hosts with blistering pace, and were unlucky not to have more wickets, even if the New Zealand top order cleverly tempered their attacking instincts, choosing to leave and defend instead of chasing a dynamite start.
Nicol and Martin Guptill were grilled by movement off the seam and sharp bounce, before Dale Steyn came into the attack to add hooping movement through the air to the pace concoction. South Africa's pacemen were perhaps unlucky to glean just one wicket from the opening stanza, but they had shackled a typically explosive top order and reduced them to scampered singles to the infield.
New Zealand eventually found their way following consolidation from Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson - both of whom notched up smart fifties through the middle overs. McCullum was caught on the boundary just as his belligerent streak began to show. Williamson, whose innings was steadier but none less effective, helped lay a foundation from which New Zealand could launch - he carried the side to 191 for 4 from 40 overs, before falling in the 41st.
The acceleration New Zealand had become accustomed to against Zimbabwe, though, never came. de Villiers used no less than five bowlers in short bursts in the last ten overs, forcing the New Zealand batsmen to constantly readjust, meaning less runs and more wickets than the hosts would have bargained for. Only two boundaries were hit from overs 40 to 49, and were it not for a wayward final over from Morne Morkel, New Zealand would have struggled to make 250.
Edited by Nikita Bastian
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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