Faf du Plessis and David Miller have guided South Africa to a modest Black Caps target to claim a series deciding six-wicket win in the fifth one-dayer in Auckland, the tourists regaining top spot in the ICC ODI rankings in the process.
Set 150 for victory at Eden Park, du Plessis clinched the 3-2 series victory for the Proteas when he pulled Black Caps paceman Trent Boult for four in the 33rd over, bringing up his own half-century in the process.
The Black Caps had refused to lie down all series, despite the Proteas arriving in New Zealand as the world’s No 1 ODI team on a 14-win hot streak.
And on Saturday, New Zealand’s attack again fought bravely in defence of a small total as they kept the pressure on South Africa’s talented batting line-up early in the game.
Skipper Kane Williamson cycled through four bowlers in the first 12 overs, and when spinner Jeetan Patel claimed JP Duminy in the sixteenth over, he not only had bowling figures of 3-2 but the Proteas in trouble at 3-48.
However, a steadying 23 runs from 21 balls knock by AB de Villiers, including two crowd-pleasing sixes, put the Proteas back on track, before du Plessis and Miller took over to guide the visitors home with a 62-run partnership.
De Villiers’ small but important knock was enough to ensure he top-scored in the series with 262 runs at 87.33.
Earlier, South Africa’s bowling attack rolled the Kiwis for a dismal 149 runs, their equal-third lowest total when batting first at Eden Park.
The rot set in early for the Black Caps on Saturday as their top order capitulated inside 17 overs to be 4-51.
It was left to Kiwi tailenders Mitchell Santner (24) and Colin de Grandhomme (32) to steady the innings as they put on a patient 45-run partnership, while powerful all-rounder Jimmy Neesham chipped in with 24.
Coming in at No.6, Neesham provided the only entertainment for a restless Auckland crowd as he freed his shoulders to bash four fours and a crunching six over the bowler’s head.
Tweaker Imran Tahir returned sparkling figures of 2-14 runs from 10 overs with only former Proteas captain Shaun Pollock having ever bowled a more economical spell in one day cricket for South Africa.
Tahir was ably assisted by South Africa’s pace battery, including Rabada, whose 3-25 earned him man of the match honours, while the Proteas were also dazzling in the field, including two brilliant run outs by AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.
The Black Caps experienced top order all failed to fire in front of the Auckland crowd of 19,142 with Martin Guptill (four), Williamson (nine) and Ross Taylor (eight) all failing to reach double digits.
After snatching the No 1 spot ahead of Australia last month, South Africa handed back pole position to the Aussies after they lost the fourth ODI against New Zealand, thanks to a Martin Guptill masterclass.
South Africa had dethroned Australia in February when they sealed a 5-0 series sweep of Sri Lanka on home turf, with their 11th consecutive win in the 50-over format returning them to the No 1 spot for the first time in two years.