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SA take series win
07 May 2006
By: Richard Edmunds

After a morale-crushing series of tests against Australia, the South Africans have regained some confidence with a series-clinching victory over New Zealand at Johannesburg today. Set a challenging target to win on a bowler-friendly pitch, an attacking start set them on the path towards victory and, although there were some very shaky moments, it was brought up comfortably in the end.

New Zealand resumed on 214-6, needing some quick runs to set a reasonable target for the South Africans. Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori set about doing so, taking the score through to 239 before Oram fell to a superb catch by Boeta Dippenaar off the Bowling of Dale Steyn. With some able support from James Franklin, Vettori kept going and brought up an excellent half-century in a similar mould to that scored by Shaun Pollock yesterday, and his 60 from 91 balls was an absolutely crucial innings in guiding New Zealand through to their final total of 283.

This set the South Africans a target of 217, making the South Africans clear favourites to win but still a big enough target to make it a very interesting chase. Which is indeed what it proved to be. The home side made a dominant start with some great shots against some not terribly impressive bowling, putting on 69 for the first wicket in just 14 overs. Moving along at almost a run a ball in the first ten overs, they hit both opening bowlers out of the attack. The partnership was eventually broken when Dippenaar fell to Martin, caught behind by Brendon McCullum for 37.

Although the next few partnerships were still reasonably substantial, each one was smaller than the previous one as New Zealand edged back into the contest. The second wicket fell at 130, the crucial wicket of Graeme Smith for 68 from just 79 balls, then Hashim Amla fell with the score at 156 and another huge wicket, that of Jacques Kallis at 167.

But South Africa again fought back, and at 202-5 it looked fairly safe. But Franklin had other ideas, going through the defence of Mark Boucher to take the sixth wicket. The match could easily have gone either way from this point, and with it the series, either a season-saving 2-0 win for the hosts or a 1-1 draw.

Ashwell Prince took strike with the score at 208-6. A ball from Chris Martin caught the edge and sailed up in the air. But it landed just beyond the slip cordon and rolled away to the boundary for four. This left just five required, and an impressive cover drive next ball brought the scores level, making a series win inevitable, and Shaun Pollock finished it off in the next over.

Although New Zealand refused to give in, South Africa always seemed to have the edge throughout the chase. Their advantage varied in size and at times, particularly 202-6, it was almost completely even. But it was the opening partnership that was crucial in the end, giving them a position from which an impressive collapse would be required in order to lose.

It will boost confidence for the South Africans that they could put the losses to Australia behind them with a strong series performance against a determined opponent. New Zealand should rightly be disappointed, having found themselves in winning positions on multiple occasions this season. But they still had a number of performances to be proud of.

New Zealand 119
Stephen Fleming 46, Nathan Astle 20
Makhaya Ntini 5-35, Dale Steyn 3-43

South Africa 186
Graeme Smith 63, Hashim Amla 56
Chris Martin 5-37, James Franklin 3-87

New Zealand 283
Daniel Vettori 60, Nathan Astle 45
Dale Steyn 4-90, Shaun Pollock 2-36

South Africa 220-6
Graeme Smith 68, Ashwell Prince 43*
James Franklin 3-67, Kyle Mills 2-49

South Africa won by 4 wickets.

Cricket Web Player of the Match

Graeme Smith - 63 & 68.

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