At Cape Town, January 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. South Africa won by seven wickets. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: P. J. R. Steyn.
Cronje became the second Test captain, after W. G. Grace in the 1888 Ashes, to win a three-match series after going one down. Another aggressive South African performance exposed the frailties of their dispirited opponents. On a newly relaid pitch, unusually pacy for Newlands, the fast bowlers overwhelmed New Zealand, but they helped with their own destruction: Crowe, Rutherford, Parore, Young and Fleming all perished to rash hooks and pulls. That they came within 45 minutes of the draw, despite squandering at least six wickets, illustrates their careless approach throughout the later stages of a tour which started so well. Fleming, with two half-centuries at No. 7, seemed to be one of the few still competing.
On the first day, in front of over 17,000 spectators, the fiery Jack and McMillan reduced New Zealand to 96 for five. Parore fell to a second bizarre run-out: he had taken two off his second ball when his call of wait was blown away from Young by a cross-wind. Rutherford led the fight-back, with 56, until he pulled recklessly to mid-wicket - his most culpable dismissal of a disappointing series. Fleming and Hart kept at the task, but an eventual 288 included 30 from last man Pringle.
South Africa's debutant opener, Rudolf Steyn, played pleasantly for 38 before three wickets for off-spinner Thomson brought New Zealand back into the game. Cronje, however, survived a confident appeal and another simple chance, and completed his fourth Test century, a patient 112. He was seventh out at 325, but South Africa pushed onwards, with Richardson scoring his maiden Test hundred, batting five hours and earning a lead of 152. Though the pitch offered turn, Thomson and Hart showed their inexperience. Too often, Hart bowled negatively over the wicket into the rough outside leg stump.
New Zealand had five sessions to save the game and needed to bat for four - not impossible in still favourable conditions. Murray was unlucky to be judged lbw, another victim of variable umpiring, though Fleming was later reprieved on nine when Lambson recalled him after initially approving a catch to silly point. At 63 for one in the afternoon, the tourists were fighting back - only for Parore and Crowe to go hooking. Rutherford was then given lbw and his reaction brought a fine and a suspended two-match ban from referee Burge, for dissent both on the field and in the pavilion, in what Burge judged to be earshot of the umpires. Again, Young held the innings together, and he and Thomson were still there at the close.
But their dismissals typified New Zealand's attitude. Young's admirable resistance ended after 278 minutes in another mis-hook, falling into an obvious trap, and Thomson was run out when he posed for ten seconds outside his crease, holding a forward defensive stroke. Five minutes after lunch, they were seven down and only 21 ahead. Fleming and Doull showed much-needed application, adding 51 before De Villiers took the last three wickets in 12 deliveries. But South Africa needed a mere 88 in 42 overs; Cronje hit the winning boundary with nearly 11 overs to spare.
Man of the Match: D. J. Richardson. Man of the Series: D. J. Richardson.
Close of play: First day, New Zealand 211-6 (S. P. Fleming 58*, M. N. Hart 8*); Second day, South Africa 152-3 (J. B. Commins 22*, W. J. Cronje 11*); Third day, South Africa 381-7 (D. J. Richardson 70*, C. E. Eksteen 10*); Fourth day, New Zealand 121-4 (B. A. Young 42*, S. A. Thomson 1*).