Contrasting innings by Justin Ontong and JP Duminy gave South Africa 147 for six and a total they could bowl to in the first T20 international against New Zealand at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday.
Clever bowling, backed by magnificent fielding, had given New Zealand another stranglehold over the South African batsmen after they had been sent in to bat and it needed an extraordinary over of hitting by Ontong to give the tourists a respectable total.
South Africa had been reduced to 52 for four after nine overs and Duminy and Ontong had struggled to find anything else but singles as they added 23 runs in the next five overs.
Ontong, who had seemingly edged a sweep off part-time spinner Rob Nicol to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum in the previous over, then laid into off-spinner Kane Williamson, ending his second over with four successive sixes, three of them to deep midwicket and the fourth over long-on.
The bristling Tim Southee returned to claim Ontong’s wicket for 32 off 17 balls, taking a magnificent low return catch, and Doug Bracewell, who recently skittled Australia in a shock test win for New Zealand, then bowled a superb penultimate over that cost just three runs, two of them being leg-byes.
Fifteen runs would come from the final over, however, as Johan Botha hit Kyle Mills for a four and a six.
Openers Hashim Amla (19) and Richard Levi (13) had started brightly for South Africa, adding 24 off 20 balls, but the brilliance of Martin Guptill in the field had much to do with the visitors’ top-order woes.
Guptill dashed in from mid-off and slid into the stumps to run out Amla and then snapped up a wonderful low catch at short extra-cover to remove AB de Villiers for eight after the South African captain had slapped a delivery from left-arm spinner Roneel Hira with tremendous power and timing.
A top-class delivery from off-spinner Nathan McCullum had removed Colin Ingram for a two-ball duck, brother Brendon completing a juggled stumping after a foray down the pitch by the left-hander.
Duminy gave himself time to settle and refused to let the pressure get to him as he accumulated an important 41 off 37 balls, although he was fortunate to survive an lbw appeal off Williamson on 21.
Southee (4-0-28-3) and Nathan McCullum (4-0-16-1 with the new ball) did much to unsettle the South African batsmen.