South Africa won the first trophy available to them in their home summer with victory in the three-match Twenty20 series. After piling on the fifth highest score posted in the shortest format (at both international and domestic level) at St George's Park, thanks largely to an 89-run third wicket stand between Henry Davids and Justin Ontong, Aaron Phangiso and Ryan McLaren ensured South Africa defended it comfortably.
All of New Zealand's bowlers save for Mitchell McClenaghan and Ronnie Hira failed to read the pace of the Port Elizabeth pitch. Against the aggression of Davids and Ontong they gave away too many runs which allowed the pair to lay the launch-pad for take-off.
New Zealand did not have the batsmen to do the same. With Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum at the crease, there was some hope. Once the dominoes began to fall, there was no stopping the slide. Still, New Zealand competed with the hosts with more heart than was expected of them to set the tone ahead for the Test matches.
As an example of their ability to ruffle feathers, New Zealand had the hosts in early trouble, even in the absence of Richard Levi. South Africa's opening partnership stuttered again when Faf du Plessis, who was promoted to bat in his preferred top-two spot, was bowled by Ronnie Hira as he attempted to hit through mid-wicket.
Levi's omission also meant Quinton de Kock was given more responsibility at No. 3 but his inexperience showed. Instead of rotating strike while Davids kept going, de Kock tried to loft McClenaghan over long-on and got a leading edge. Corey Anderson ran from mid-off to take the catch at mid-on and de Kock's series with the bat ended without him living up to the hype.
Davids had none of the same expectation but exceeded all hopes. He displayed a range of classical shots, tinged only with some extra intent. The drive off the back foot and the pull shot were his hallmarks but more notable than that was that he scored off almost every ball he faced. Both he and Ontong pushed each other between the wickets and put pressure on the New Zealand fielders.
The only chance they offered was when Davids went aerial against Doug Bracewell and lobbed the ball to Martin Guptill at short extra cover. Guptill seemed to lose the ball in the background and although he got fingers to it, spilt the chance. Davids was on 32 and went on to more than double his score.
As Davids grew in confidence, so did Ontong, whose assurance swelled against James Franklin. Ontong hit him for back to back sixes: down the ground and then to deep mid-wicket but Franklin won the mini-battle when Ontong was caught trying to send another slower ball over the leg-side boundary. Still, he had taken 16 runs off the five balls he faced in that over and South Africa had 116 runs and seven wickets in hand as they approached the last five overs.
Those turned out to the most profitable, even though Davids departed mid-way through. South Africa added 63 runs in the final quarter of their innings, thanks to their big-hitters. Farhaan Behardien and David Miller both struck the ball cleanly against New Zealand's clueless death bowlers.
Contrastingly, South Africa's attack had a firm grip on what was required. Ryan McClaren had Rob Nicol lbw in the first over when he was struck in line of middle and offstump. Guptill showed glimpses of the form he displayed three days ago when his 101 took New Zealand to victory. He drove with power and was assisted by McCullum, who seemed to finally find his placement.
Just as the two settled, Guptill tried to paddle Phangiso over short fine-leg but was caught by Robin Peterson. Phangiso claimed another big scalp in his next over when McCullum thought he had got him over long-off but was caught on the boundary.
New Zealand remained in the hunt and after 11 overs had the same score South Africa had posted - 71 - but had lost two more wickets. Colin Munro edged a McLaren short ball and James Franklin swung to long-on to give Phangiso his third. The point of no return was reached when Morne Morkel leapt to his left at short third man to send Jimmy Neesham on his way.
The required run rate climbed to over 14 to an over with six to go and only last rites were left to be performed. Rory Kleinveldt took the ninth wicket but Morne Morkel finished without reward as a new South African era made itself known. For New Zealand, there remains much to work on. They were suspected to have bled 20 runs too many but in the end, were almost double that short.