McLaren's last-ball six gives South Africa win
South Africa 264 for 9 (Smith 116) beat New Zealand 260 for 9 (Munro 57, Elliott 54, Franklin 53*, Tsotsobe 4-45, McLaren 4-52) by one wicket
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
South Africa nearly messed up another run chase, but Ryan McLaren's six off the final ball ensured they avoided their first limited-overs whitewash on home soil by securing a gripping one-wicket victory in Potchefstroom. Graeme Smith's tenth ODI hundred was guiding the innings only for another uncertain display from the middle and lower order to mean the game was never dead and it came down to needing three off the last ball.
James Franklin, who the ball before had Dale Steyn caught at deep midwicket, tried to bowl wide of off stump and McLaren responded by scooping him over fine leg. Still, while the crowd went wild, South Africa's celebrations, after the initial relief, were muted as they had still come second best in this series and, barring Smith, their batting performance was again one to raise concerns.
New Zealand never gave up and deserve immense credit for how they turned their fortunes around during this one-day series. For a side that fielded outstandingly, though, they will regret one moment when McLaren, on 6, was dropped at deep midwicket by Jimmy Neesham who approached the catch far too casually.
While Smith was at the crease the chase, while never simple, was under control. He had brought up his hundred with consecutive boundaries off Kane Williamson but attempting to loft the same bowler down the ground picked out long-on with 32 still needed from 26 balls. Rory Kleinveldt and Aaron Phangiso then both fell swinging across the line at Mitchell McClenaghan to set up the grandstand final over where eight were needed with two wickets in hand.
But Smith's innings deserved to be a matchwinner. During the course of his 130-ball stay he moved second in the list of all-time run-scorers for South Africa in ODIs, now just behind Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs. Early on he was given plenty on the pads to pick off, but the cover drive, not often a shot associated with Smith, twice made an appearance.
His opening stand of 83 with Quinton de Kock laid the ideal base to chase 260 but after de Kock misjudged his pull against Franklin the innings stalled as New Zealand applied pressure. Nathan McCullum's offspin was hard to score off and when South Africa called for the Powerplay in the 27th over Colin Ingram pulled the first ball of it to midwicket.
More loose shots followed, with Smith watching on from the other end. Faf du Plessis also picked out midwicket against Kyle Mills, Farhaan Behardien chipped a catch back to Williamson who did well to hold on while colliding with Smith and David Miller played a hot-headed hoick across the line shortly after Smith had reached his hundred. At 205 for 5 in the 42nd over New Zealand were back in contention and when they removed Smith the whitewash was on the cards, but McLaren managed to keep his cool.
New Zealand had earlier recovered impressively to reach 260, after familiar problems at the top of the order left them 68 for 4, with Grant Elliott, Colin Munro and Franklin hitting half-centuries. South Africa will again be concerned about how they could not finish off an innings with the ball as well as they had started.
Elliott, who played an important innings in Kimberley, began binding the innings together. Munro grew as his stay progressed and at one stage lofted Steyn for six having already taken debutant Phangiso for three boundaries in an over during a maiden international fifty. He had been given lbw against McLaren when he had 2 but he correctly reviewed as the ball had pitched outside leg and also took an inside edge.
Eventually, however, both batsmen fell to Lonwabo Tsotsobe who had made the early breakthroughs with the new ball. Elliott was the second wicket of the innings to be caught at third man and Munro edged a slower ball. New Zealand, though, benefited from their deep batting order which has been key throughout this series. South Africa, who were again slow with their overs but escaped punishment from match referee David Boon, also gave a helping hand by conceded 17 wides.
Losing regular wickets meant Franklin could not cut loose, but he took the innings as deep as he could with some smart batting. He managed to keep the strike after the ninth wicket fell in the 48th over and the final 11 balls of the innings brought 26 runs, including a six off the penultimate delivery to reach his fifty. It was enough to set up an engrossing finish.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo