The Proteas wrested back the momentum to take the Series. Photosport.nz

Momentum missed in BLACKCAPS' African swansong

Third ODI at Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead, Durban: South Africa 283/7 in 50 overs (van Wyk 58, Amla 44, de Villiers 64, Miller 36, Behardien 40; Wheeler 3-71) beat the BLACKCAPS 221 all out in 49.2 overs (Latham 54, Williamson 39, Munro 35; Wiese 3-58) by 62 runs

Scorecard

Durban would prove one match too far for the BLACKCAPS as a strong five weeks in Africa ended with a 1-2 ODI series loss to South Africa.

In the hot, humid, overcast conditions of the coastal city, the ball was always going to swing — but Proteas captain AB de Villiers had no fear of batting first after winning the toss, knowing the same would be true locally come evening.

The masterful strokemaker would play a significant role in a South African team effort, overcoming the best efforts of the BLACKCAPS attack as he beat a quick 64 from just 48 balls.

A milestone match for A.B. de Villiers. Images: Photosport.nz

His confidence breathed the life and momentum into the innings that the Proteas had been searching for, and would ultimately see them rally to 283/7 in conditions in which 270 had generally been reckoned to be a winning total.

The Proteas had been forced into two changes to their XI after having been trounced by the BLACKCAPS just days earlier. Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada stepped into the bowling attack in place of Aaron Phangiso and Vernon Philander, who was laid low with a virus.

Looking for only their second One Day International Series win in South Africa, the BLACKCAPS were meanwhile unchanged, the experience of Grant Elliott shining as he backed up the opening pacemen with his shape and wiliness with the ball.

Adam Milne generated heat, and Ben Wheeler delivered three wickets, but once the Proteas got a strong foothold in the middle stages of their innings, they were not to be reigned in.

Wheeler was frustrated to see his three wickets come at a cost of 71

Opener Morne Van Wyk had scrabbled his way to a half century, but he had been let off the hook on 17 when a regulation catch in the deep off an Adam Milne short ball  slipped through Doug Bracewell's fingers. It was symptomatic of a night when the BLACKCAPS were not at their slick best in the field.

Partner Hashim Amla made it to 44 before he was outwitted and caught and bowled by Elliott, his score belying his contribution as he sought restrained, workmanlike control against the swing and zest of the ball.

That brought the form of Rilee Roussouw to the crease, but the Proteas' number three was in for a short and eventful stay.

After surviving an attempted run out by the skin of his bat — the bails refusing to fall in time for Ronchi; he would be gone for just six in the same over, as Wheeler kept up the pressure and Tom Latham calmly grabbed a good, low chance at slip.

De Villiers broke through the 8000-run barrier in One-Day International cricket in his innings and it should come as no surprise that he did so in 18 fewer matches than any other batsman in the history of the game.

He conjured eight fours and a six in an 86-run stand with the powerful David Miller in a lively 10 overs that swung the match the Proteas' way – and thrilled the Kingsmead crowd in a man of the match performance. Yet, when he departed in the 41st over, it was to an almost innocuous nudge against Bracewell, right when he looked set to launch for a big finish.

While neither side was top of their game in the field in this match, the BLACKCAPS fought back with the ball to restrict South Africa, who at one stage had looked on for a hefty total in the environs of 300.   

Ben Wheeler (3-71) bowled with maturity at the death, while Elliott (2-41) Adam Milne (1-44) and Bracewell (1-54) all produced spells that chastened the momentum of the match. 

However, Farhaan Behardien capitalised on the Proteas' platform with 40 from 28 balls, 30 of those runs coming in boundaries as the Proteas saw out their overs with a flourish. Behardien was caught on the final ball of the innings by Williamson on the long off boundary.

In reply, Tom Latham continued his strong tour, marching to a 67-ball half century (including four fours and a six) before he was run out on 54. But he had lost his customary ally Martin Guptill early, and when Kane Williamson was bowled by Imran Tahir on 39, the Proteas went in for the kill.

Skipper Williamson (39), George Worker (21) and Grant Elliott (20) had all got starts, but were dismissed trying to find the boundary on the slow and demanding pitch. All up, three quick wickets in the middle order hurled the BLACKCAPS from 141/3 to 156/6.

South Africa missed a number of opportunities in the field, but the BLACKCAPS could not capitalise, unable to create any partnerships of note after Williamson departed in the 24th over.

Colin Munro (playing in his old home city at the ground where he made his debut) faced a difficult ask in the final 15 overs and, necessarily circumspect, did his best to hold off the fire at the death with a hand of 35 off 44 deliveries. He was running out of support and, once the tail was exposed, there had been little hope of the side overcoming the steepling required run rate.

Credit must go to the Proteas’ bowling attack, led by Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir, who contained the BLACKCAPS superbly with a clinical performance.

Allrounder David Wiese had done the most damage in the middle with his 3-58, Tahir contributing 2-33 before the BLACKCAPS' pain was ended, the last wicket falling on 221 in a final over that was already without hope.

Accordingly, Latham would be edged by Amla for the man of the match honours, but ended the African tour with the most runs for the BLACKCAPS from the three-match Series: 178 of them at 59.33.

The Series victory sees South Africa nudge one place ahead of the BLACKCAPS in the Reliance ICC ODI world rankings to third. Said tour captain Kane Williamson, "Overall this tour has been of great benefit, everyone got a lot out of it. But we never gained momentum today. South Africa bowled very well and adapted better than us to different conditions again today."

  

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