New Zealand 289 for 4 (Taylor 102*, Neesham 71*, Williamson 69, Pretorious 2-40) beat South Africa 283 for 9 (De Kock 57, Pretorius 50, Boult 3-63) by six runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
South Africa's lower order threatened another heist, but Trent Boult gave a glimpse of why he went for big money in the IPL by holding his nerve to help New Zealand secure a series-levelling six-run victory in Christchurch. Dwaine Pretorius' 26-ball fifty almost wrestled the game away from New Zealand until Boult got his yorkers on target in the penultimate over. He then cleaned up Pretorius to make amends for dropping him in the deep on 15.
The win should have been much more comfortable for New Zealand when South Africa slipped to 214 for 8, but after Pretorius was shelled he kept finding the boundary. It came down to needing 20 off two overs when Boult, who had earlier claimed the key scalps of Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers but conceded 15 off his ninth over, only went for five runs of his last. Andile Phehlukwayo was unable to locate the boundary early in the last over bowled by Tim Southee - and did not trust Imran Tahir with the strike - as South Africa's winning streak ended at 12.
It meant that Ross Taylor's record-breaking day did not come in vain. He became New Zealand's leading ODI century-maker, and the country's quickest batsman to reach 6000 runs in the process, while adding the innings-defining stand of 123 with Jimmy Neesham.
While Boult earned a mega payday 48 hours ago, Taylor was not picked in the auction: his T20 cricket is not valued by country or franchise at the moment. His absence from New Zealand's side has been a topic of much debate, but in the longer white-ball format he is playing as well as ever. He equalled Nathan Astle's 16 centuries against Australia, at Hamilton, earlier this month and went one better off the final ball of the innings when he drilled Wayne Parnell through the covers.
Taylor added 104 with Kane Williamson, their 11th century stand in ODIs, to set the base for the innings. Then, Neesham struck a timely 45-ball half-century which helped New Zealand add 89 in the final ten overs. The Hagley Oval pitch was slower than usual due to recent poor weather, so while five of the previous nine first-innings totals on the ground had been over 300, this one was more than workable.
However with David Miller back after his finger injury and Phehlukwayo at No. 10 (Kagiso Rabada was ruled out with a knee niggle), South Africa's batting order was even more imposing. But New Zealand kept chipping away. Southee produced an unplayable delivery to trap Hashim Amla lbw and Colin de Grandhomme nipped one back to defeat Faf du Plessis.
JP Duminy was sent in at No. 4 ahead of de Villiers - for tactical purposes it was said - but having eased to 34 he was beaten in the flight by Mitchell Santner: a chance for a match-defining innings had slipped away. The same could be said of de Kock, for the second match running, after he had glided to his fifty from 59 balls before heaving Boult deep into the leg side.
A hallmark of South Africa's winning streak has been having someone in the top order take responsibility for an innings but that wasn't the case in Christchurch. Miller, after his spell on sidelines, couldn't quite find his timing before edging Ish Sodhi's googly and de Villiers under-edged a pull against Boult in his first over back in the attack.
When Chris Morris was smartly run out by a back-handed flick from Dean Brownlie and Parnell lbw to Santner, there seemed very little chance for South Africa only for late drama. New Zealand would have struggled to recover if they had let this one slip away.
It had not been easy going for them when they were put in. Tom Latham's tricky run continued, softly clipping a leg-stump delivery from Parnell to square leg. It made his run in ODIs - since the 137 against Bangladesh on this ground - 2, 0, 0, 7, 4 and 22, potentially leaving him vulnerable when Martin Guptill returns from injury.
There was caution from Williamson and Taylor at the start of their partnership, but Williamson broke the shackles when he bunted Phehlukwayo over wide mid-on at the end of the 19th over. The next 11 overs brought 73 runs - Williamson reaching his second fifty of the series off 59 deliveries - to leave New Zealand with a strong platform of 155 for 2 after 30 overs.
The innings threatened to lose its way when Williamson picked out long-on against Imran Tahir and Neil Broom collected his second failure of the series to leave the onus very much on Taylor.
The boundary that took him to fifty off 60 balls also brought up the 6000-run milestone and alongside Neesham, whose position had been coming under scrutiny, they ensured the wobble did not become a collapse. Neesham was the first to take on the bowling inside the final ten overs, which helped take the pressure off Taylor, as he took on Tahir's last two overs and also played a blistering pull off Morris.
Taylor began the final over on 95 but lost the strike off the first ball and only got it back with two deliveries remaining. A meaty swing at the penultimate ball sent it sailing towards long-on where Miller took a fabulous catch but, sliding round the boundary, thought he would touch the rope and flicked the ball back so it became two runs. The final ball of the innings was wide outside off and Taylor thumped it through the covers to wild applause from the sellout crowd. They were cheering again a few hours later.