South Africa 131 for 7 (de Villiers 52*, Patel 2-17) beat New Zealand 129 for 7 (Mills 33*, Pollock 3-29) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The last time South Africa played a Twenty20 they choked in memorable style against India in the ICC World Twenty20 and nearly imploded again this time before coming through by three wickets with a ball to spare against New Zealand at the Wanderers. AB de Villiers, with an unbeaten 52, kept his cool as the home side did their best to hand New Zealand a morale-boosting win, but it was left to Johan Botha to strike the penultimate ball for four.
For three quarters of the match South Africa had everything under control following an impressive performance with the ball. But Jeetan Patel brought New Zealand back into the contest by removing Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock as de Villiers struggled to find anyone to partner him to the end. With three overs to go they needed 14 but just seven came from the next 12 balls and South Africa started having nervous flashbacks.
To add to the tension Vernon Philander was run out on the second ball of the final over and de Villiers, who'd reached his first Twenty20 fifty off 43 balls, couldn't get the strike. In the end it was down to Botha and he flicked Kyle Mills through midwicket to send the crowd into raptures. Disappointingly it wasn't a full house, a stark contrast to the ICC World Twenty20 final staged on this ground two months ago, but those present witnessed another match which showed how much fortunes can change during 40 overs.
South Africa rested Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel, and the strength of their reserves was indicated with Pollock collecting three wickets on his return. The home side caught well, although they couldn't hit a barn door with their attempted run-outs, as New Zealand threatened to fall inside the 20 overs before Mills flayed a defiant 33 at the death.
Chasing 130 shouldn't have proved as testing as it turned out. Jacques Kallis, who was controversially omitted from the ICC World Twenty20, looked intent on showing his aggressive side but picked out fine leg after being rushed by Mark Gillespie's bouncer, and Graeme Smith's poor run was extended when he edged Mills.
JP Duminy kept the innings on track with a punchy innings at No. 3. He showed a panache for the pull shot and was shaping to take South Africa home on his own when he slog-swept Daniel Vettori over deep midwicket. But the New Zealand captain had his revenge three balls later with a clever piece of bowling to draw Duminy out of his crease.
Normally secure in the field, New Zealand's catching then began to let them down. de Villiers launched Vettori high into the night sky and Mills couldn't steady himself under the chance at long-off, but that was nothing compared to Gillespie's howler at midwicket to reprieve Boucher. Patel then made his double incision, trapping Boucher lbw - although there was a doubt - and removing Pollock thanks to a fine catch at deep midwicket by Ross Taylor.
The equation reached a run-a-ball as Patel proved difficult to score off, but a meaty six over midwicket from Albie Morkel appeared to seal the result. Not so. Morkel slapped Scott Styris' second ball to cover before Taylor and Lou Vincent combined to run out Philander in the final-over panic. Although New Zealand ultimately couldn't pull off the heist, their fightback should have at least boosted spirits ahead of the one-day series.
Their earlier efforts had been depressingly familiar as the batting slumped to 98 for 7. Brendon McCullum slapped a wide delivery straight to point and Jamie How picked out cover after a promising start in his first outing of the tour. Pollock was the beneficiary on both occasions, making the most of an outing in international colours after missing the recent Tests. Smith was confident enough in his bowlers - or dismissive enough of New Zealand's chances - to keep a slip, or sometimes two, throughout much of the innings.
Morkel bowled a nippy spell to keep the pressure on as Taylor fell in familiar fashion, pushing away from his body and sending an edge to slip, and collected Gareth Hopkins in his final over when the reserve wicketkeeper limply guided a wide ball to point. Vincent scratched around for 20 balls before trying to reverse sweep a low full toss from Botha, whose impressive economy was helped by batsmen tied to their crease.
Styris played an almost lone hand with his 30, but it wasn't until Mills opened up in the closing overs that New Zealand showed real intent. It is no coincidence that Mills wasn't involved in the Test hammerings. He cleared long-off against Dale Steyn and in the final over creamed Charl Langeveldt straight down the ground with a little help from the altitude. In the final reckoning it hadn't quite given New Zealand enough to play with, but if they show the same spirit the one-day series could be a worthwhile contest.