South Africa’s bowlers – especially Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morne Morkel – revelled in a McLean Park pitch that provided them with good pace and bounce and blasted New Zealand out for just 230.
Amla, after a poor tour thus far, then returned to his daily grind of making run-scoring look easy, breezing to 92 off 107 balls to make it a routine run-chase.
Amla telegraphed his intentions of doing the job as quickly and smoothly as possible by lashing six fours in his first 20 balls, while Faf du Plessis raced to 34 off 25 balls to ensure that South Africa were not affected either by the early loss of Jacques Kallis, who was superbly caught by wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, diving forward, off Kyle Mills for four, or the fact that regular opener Graeme Smith was not playing due to a badly-bruised forearm.
Du Plessis and Amla laid down the law with a series of crunching strokes through the off side, adding 69 for the second wicket in just 8.4 overs, before a wonderful piece of cricket by Martin Guptill removed Du Plessis.
The in-form Nashua Titans batsman hooked Andy Ellis to deep square-leg, where Guptill took the catch but then quickly got rid of the ball as he tiptoed towards and then over the boundary rope. Having regained his balance, he then stepped back into the field of play and regathered the ball he had lobbed up, in a superb example of composure, calm and presence of mind.
This brought the Kiwis some respite from the flood of boundaries as JP Duminy came in, but the batsmen could afford to be selective as they needed only 151 runs from 231 balls.
Duminy was in even better touch than in the second ODI, and cruised to 43 off 39 balls before he was deceived by leg-spinner Tarun Nethula and offered a simple return catch.
Nethula was actually unfortunate to not finish with better figures than two for 60 off his 10 overs as he also gave Amla a tough time and could have had had three catches taken off his bowling.
Amla had reached his 17th ODI half-century off just 51 balls, but fell just short of his 10th century when Nethula finally claimed his scalp. It was a perfectly-pitched leg-break that Amla was tentative in playing off the front foot, edging the turning ball to wicketkeeper McCullum.
But that was the last wicket New Zealand took as skipper AB de Villiers (31*) and Justin Ontong (17*) applied the final touches to an impressive victory.
The bowlers had earlier done South Africa proud as they dismissed New Zealand for just 230, as a perfect batting pitch, short square boundaries and not even a second-wicket stand of 107 off 113 balls between Guptill and McCullum could faze the visitors as they claimed the last eight wickets for just 67 runs.
DIRECT AND UNYIELDING APPROACH
South Africa’s approach was direct and unyielding – the McLean Park pitch offered one consolation for the bowlers in the form of excellent bounce and the pacemen bombarded the New Zealand batsmen. The quality of the short-pitched bowling was such that the batsmen could not take consistent advantage of the short square boundaries.
Given that, it was unsurprising that South Africa’s two tallest bowlers were their most successful.
Morne Morkel was twice on a hat-trick as he claimed a superb, career-best five for 38 in 9.3 overs, while Tsotsobe continued his assault on the number one spot in the ICC rankings with outstanding figures of three for 43 in his 10 overs.
Captain De Villiers figured it would be a difficult ground on which to defend a total, so he sent New Zealand in and, after Tsotsobe had trapped Rob Nicol leg-before for 11, Guptill and McCullum put the home side on top.
Both batsmen devoured anything that offered width or was down leg, and those South Africans watching at home were facing an uncomfortable breakfast as New Zealand reached the halfway mark just one wicket down.
Smothering the run-rate was always going to be a difficult ask, so South Africa focused their attention on taking wickets.
The man who made the breakthrough was their very own version of the Bionic Man – Kallis.
The 36-year-old came rumbling in at good pace, Guptill had no business trying to cut a back-of-a-length delivery that leapt off the pitch, and wicketkeeper De Villiers had no problems taking the catch. The in-form opener had cruised to 58 off 73 balls without any problems, and his dismissal was nothing less than a waste.
McCullum was initially nowhere near as fluent as Guptill and little went for the South African bowlers early in his knock. The New Zealand captain had nevertheless regained his touch enough for him to take the batting powerplay in the 33rd over.
It turned out to be a disaster for the home side as they lost three wickets and scored just 20 runs in the five powerplay overs.
It was Tsotsobe who began the crash. The left-armer has such a well-oiled action these days and his accuracy quickly forced a false shot from Kane Williamson (13), who tried to drive the ball over the top. Kallis scooted backwards from mid-on and did superbly well to take the catch behind his head.
Tsotsobe’s next over brought the major scalp of McCullum, whose whip off his pads found a happy home in Ontong’s hands on the deep square-leg boundary. McCullum’s 85 off 96 balls, with 11 fours and two sixes, was a fine innings, but he missed the chance to really turn the knife.
The innings was done and dusted little more than an hour later, as fast bowlers Steyn and Morkel got down to business.
Jesse Ryder was caught behind off Steyn for a duck and Morkel used steep bounce to remove James Franklin (6) and Mills (0) with successive deliveries in the 38th over.
And Morkel did the same in the 46th over, removing Tim Southee, who had lashed a pair of fours and sixes in his 28, and Nethula (0) with successive balls.
Morkel then terminated the innings with 15 balls remaining when he bowled Ellis for 19.
New Zealand would have been in an even worse state if Tsotsobe had not given McCullum a life on 18 when he put down a relatively simple return catch. But it ended up not being a disaster, South Africa’s wonderful bowling attack being ample insurance against that.