KIMBERLEY — South Africa’s hopes of staying alive in the one-day series against New Zealand evaporated in the space of 25 deliveries in Kimberley on Tuesday night.
Instead, the Black Caps won by 27 runs to claim the three-match rubber with a game to spare.
In all, five South Africans were run out in a poor display of one of the game’s most basic skills against opponents in fiery fielding form.
Although the Kiwis’ success will not erase the memory of the thrashings they endured in both Test matches played against the Proteas on this tour, it represents a remarkable comeback as well as their only series win in any format in South Africa.
New Zealand’s 279/8 was significantly shy of the total they should have reached, considering the platform set by Kane Williamson and his career-best 145 not out.
But that proved enough on the night to down a side who, deprived of the suspended AB de Villiers, the injured Hashim Amla and the rested Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn, were bowled out for 252 in 49.1 overs.
The 25 fateful deliveries saw the dismissals of Graeme Smith, Faf du Plessis and Colin Ingram.
Before those three musketeers were removed from the equation, South Africa were within 0.25 of the required run rate and itching to accelerate.
Shortly after the Black Caps’ blitz, they were in the red to the tune of 1.33 runs to the over.
Smith was run out when he and Ingram tried to take three to James Franklin, who ran hard to chase the ball down at deep third man.
Franklin’s throw to Brendon McCullum ended as fine an innings as Smith has played in several years. He looked in complete control for his 66, which was part of a stand of 129 he shared with Ingram.
Eight balls later, Du Plessis was sent back and run out — this time by Nathan McCullum’s scrumhalf dive pass from extra cover, which hit the stumps directly. With Smith went much of this weakened South African team’s experience.
With Du Plessis went much of the confidence they had placed in their stand-in captain.
It was down to Ingram, who was in sublime form for his 79, to get as much as possible of the job done. But, 17 deliveries after Du Plessis’ dismissal, Ingram tried to smack Nathan McCullum over mid-off — where BJ Watling timed his leap perfectly to take a handsome catch.
From 167/1, South Africa had crashed to 180/4. There was no way back from there, rendering Friday’s game in Potchefstroom irrelevant.
Williamson, who took guard after Martin Guptill’s customary early departure — he recorded his fourth duck in six innings in South Africa — kept his head impressively despite scraps of support from most of his team-mates.
The exception was Grant Elliott, who scored 48 in a third-wicket stand of 127.