Sunday 17 December 2017 / 03:03 PM

PROTEAS QUELL EDEN PARK DEMONS IN T20 ROUT

New Zealand have stuttered to their first defeat at home all summer – and they’ve got no one to blame but themselves.

South Africa’s Imran Tahir sealed the deal for the visitors in the one-off Twenty20 clash, but the game was already well over by then. With New Zealand’s chase already floundering, Tahir put the seal on South Africa’s victory, dismissing the home side’s only batsman to make a mark on the scoreboard, Tom Bruce, who had gotten himself to 33. Tahir was outstanding from the Northern end of Eden Park, taking career-best figures of 5/24.

The official result reads: South Africa beat New Zealand by 78 runs, providing some retribution for the tourists in their first appearance at Eden Park since their heartbreaking loss to the Kiwis in the 2015 World Cup semi.

After selectors battled to select what they thought was the cream of the crop from the vast talent pool of T20 cricketers, Kane Williamson’s side fell well short of their 186 target. Misty drizzle wasn’t enough to keep the players from the field, but both teams would’ve been happy just to get a game in. The sun came out just in time for play to get underway. The start denied predictions that the game would be washed out after heavy rain had battered Auckland on Thursday and for much of Friday.

In 90 minutes at the crease, the Proteas South showed just why they will bring a monumentally greater challenge to New Zealand than Pakistan, Bangladesh and a weakened Australian side did this summer. Hashim Amla was at his typical explosive best at the top of the South African batting line-up. The right-handed veteran is rightly ranked as one of the best batsmen in world cricket, but some woeful bowling by the hosts allowed Amla to have a field day at Eden Park.

Amla would get to 62 off 43 balls and played the decisive role in South Africa’s total of 185, helped by strong knocks from Faf du Plessis (36 off 25), AB de Villiers (26 off 17) and JP Duminy (29 off 16).

Coming into the game, New Zealand were protecting an undefeated run at home. Mike Hesson’s men are also ranked the world’s No.1 in T20 cricket; but the performance at Eden Park didn’t suggest that pedigree. The bowlers were a big failing on the night – especially at the start of the innings as two men in particular failed to find their line and length.

Ben Wheeler was disappointing, going for four consecutive boundaries in his second over after tossing up deliveries right in the sweet spot. From his four overs, Wheeler took one wicket for 49 runs. The young fast bowler brings a lot of domestic experience but hasn’t yet shown his ability to perform in international cricket as an opening paceman.

Tim Southee’s selection in the standalone T20 was questionable to some; and the veteran also leaked plenty of runs, going for three boundaries in one over early on. The veteran failed to take a wicket, but the real issue is that far too many runs came from his spell – 47 off four overs. For a bowler of his credentials and on a ground he knows well, the performance just wasn’t good enough. Southee is experiencing a considerable drought in form this summer but continues to get the nod from selectors, perhaps undeservedly at this point.

New Zealand should count their lucky stars that Trent Boult consistently performs. Once again, the left-arm pace bowler was the pick of his sides bowlers, ending with figures of 2-8 in a spell of bowling that couldn’t be matched by any of his peers.

Things weren’t any better with the bat for New Zealand. Debutant opener Glen Phillips (5) looked daunted by the occasion, Colin Munro follow the 20-year-old back to the pavilion first ball, and ‘captain reliable’ Kane Williamson (13) was dismissed playing an untimely pool shot when he wasn’t meant to be the aggressor at the crease. Corey Anderson’s role as specialist batsman failed to deliver; the returning veteran notching a total of six runs in a 10-ball stay. Luke Ronchi, fresh of return from injury, was dismissed on his first ball.

What’s more, the South African bowlers also managed to get the ball to do a lot more in the second innings. Granted, the conditions were slightly damper later in the night; but out of all the stats that were studied coming into the game, New Zealand had the superior bowling attack on paper.

Top-scoring Bruce (33 off 27) and last man out Southee (20 off 6), who plundered three sixes in his quick-fire innings, were the only Black Caps batsmen to offer any flair or resistance.
South Africa will head to Hamilton Sunday’s opening ODI full of confidence, while New Zealand will just be hoping they can turn things around in the 50-over form of the game.

South Africa 185 for 6 (Amla 62, Du Plessis 36, Boult 2-8) beat New Zealand 107 (Bruce 33, Tahir 5-24, Phehlukwayo 3-19,Morris 2-10) by 78 runs

[YouTube – rehan ansari]

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Michael Pulman

Based in Hamilton (NZ), Michael is Commentary Box Sports' rugby union and cricket expert

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