SA win again in close finish

They keep trying, and keep going close, but New Zealand just can’t seem to defeat South Africa in this series. Again they took it into the last over but Justin Kemp, a hero in the first match, filled the role of Lance Klusener to perfection in guiding the home side to an amazing win.

Having lost the toss and been put in to bat, thus rendering their injured all-rounder supersub Jacob Oram close to useless, the New Zealand batsmen came out and made a promising start, the best of the tour so far. But it could only last so long before the poor form that has haunted the openers came back to the surface and sure enough it did, Nathan Astle edging a ball from Makhaya Ntini through to Justin Kemp at second slip in the sixth over to make the score 18-1.

That got a bit worse slightly later as Friday’s hero Lou Vincent was caught behind off the same bowler for three, and when Hamish Marshall’s awful run of form continued a few overs later, caught by Smith off Andre Nel for 7, the score was not a pleasing sight from a New Zealand point of view, at 49-3.

Stephen Fleming continued to develop his innings at the other end, playing some beautiful shots, and Scott Styris joined in when he came to the crease, one Charl Langeveldt over going for 16 runs including an elegant cover drive for four by Fleming and two equally beautiful boundaries off the bat of Styris. Langeveldt was just having one of those days, being taken to by Fleming and Styris and conceding 29 from his first three overs. He came back well though upon switching ends, going for just four from his next two overs.

The partnership grew steadily, reaching fifty with a single which also took Fleming to the same score, his vital half century coming up from 84 deliveries. But then he was dismissed in that dreadfully unlucky manner, run out at the non-striker’s end after Styris played a straight drive and Justin Kemp got a touch on the ball, out for 54.

Craig McMillan made his intentions clear, walking down the wicket to his third delivery and smashing it through cover for a one bounce four. He continued to increase his score at a good rate and provide good support for Styris, who quickly moved into the forties. But then McMillan was run out, looking to take a quick single and out to a direct hit at the bowler’s end from a Shaun Pollock throw, leaving the score 155-5.

Styris then reached his fifty and with good support from Brendon McCullum they began the last ten overs charge. McCullum rapidly reached 19 with some trademark quick running before Ntini completed his spell in perfect fashion, McCullum missing when trying one of his scoop shots and Ntini hitting the stumps. When Styris followed the following over, also bowled, out to Langeveldt for 78, New Zealand found themselves 206-6 and with two new batsmen at the crease, not ideal for the last three overs of an innings. But Andre Adams improved the situation for New Zealand with a massive straight six, before being let off next ball hitting it straight up only to be dropped by Ashwell Prince, and then scoring two off the last ball of the over to take the score up to 220.

Daniel Vettori made a promising start to the next, which was bowled by Nel, over hitting a powerful straight drive for four, but he was out next ball, caught by Gibbs for 6.

A 15 run 50th over took New Zealand through to their total of 243-9, Adams hitting three fours and Kyle Mills one off the bowling of the unfortunate Langeveldt. Adams was run out off the last ball of the innings, finishing with 25 from 14 deliveries. So South Africa were left needing 244 to win, certainly a defendable total and one New Zealand will be happy with after having just 206 on the board with three overs left.

The openers started very strongly to say the least. Their 40 run opening partnership in 8 overs included 26 runs off Shane Bond’s 3 overs, including a massive six by AB de Villiers which cleared the stand. However, a change in the bowling brought a change in momentum. Andre Adams was brought in to replace Bond and his first over was a wicket maiden, taking the crucial wicket of captain Graeme Smith for 18, caught behind. McCullum was again required to make a catch three overs later when Mills at last drew the edge from de Villiers, and 40-0 had become 48-2.

Although Herschelle Gibbs started his innings brightly, the line and length of the New Zealand bowlers was exceptional and both he and Jacques Rudolph were tightly restricted in terms of runscoring. The score was 78-2 after 20 overs, scoring at under 4 an over with the required rate at around 5.5, getting tougher but plenty of batting was left.

The introduction of Vettori looked to be a vital part of an increasingly interesting match, if he was able to bowl well and take an early wicket or two New Zealand would be in a fantastic position, and if South Africa could manage to put him off his game and score runs it would put them on top. As it turned out, a wicket did fall in Vettori’s first over, but it was a run out, a fantastic direct hit by Marshall and Jacques Rudolph was just short, out for a battling 17 from 52 balls, 101-3, 143 required from 144 balls.

Gibbs decided there was no option but to attack Vettori, hitting three fours and a six in two overs against the spinner and bringing up his fifty in the process as well as bringing the required rate back below a run a ball, 104 from 108 required.

The partnership reached 49 before Ashwell Prince, who was just starting to look comfortable after struggling early in his innings, hit one in the air off Adams and it was well caught by Mills.

With the task becoming easier and easier for South Africa, Fleming turned again to Bond. And, in Bond’s second over of the spell, it worked beautifully as Gibbs misjudged a slower ball, hitting it to point where it was astonishingly well caught by Marshall, a fine innings ending for 81 and the match looking like a contest again, 57 from 51 with 5 wickets in hand.

A tidy over from Adams followed, then overs from Vettori and Adams that went for six and seven respectively, before another key moment early in Vettori’s next over. There was a mix-up between the batsmen and Mark Boucher was run out thanks to a superb direct hit by Vincent, 202-6, 42 from 28. Pollock narrowly escaped being run out first ball, but Astle missed and Pollock survived, 39 from 24 at the end of that over.

Mills returned to the attack and was welcomed back with a four edged through third man by Pollock, 35 from 23. Only one run was scored from the next two balls, then another two singles followed, 33 from 20. But then Justin Kemp ruined what was shaping up as a good over by Mills by smashing the last ball for a huge six over long on, in the end 13 runs were scored from that over and it was down to 26 from 18.

Kemp and Pollock scored a single each off Bond’s first two deliveries, before Pollock cut the third ball away for four. The next ball looked like getting the same score as Pollock hit it firmly down the ground, but it was well fielded by Oram and they ran two. With another single and a dot ball to end the over it was 17 from 12, advantage swinging back towards the home side once again.

The first ball was strongly hit through midwicket by Pollock but it was kept to two by Marshall. The same score was achieved next ball on the other side of the wicket, a shot in the air through cover cut off by Adams. 13 from 10. Each of the last four balls of the over produced singles, leaving a simple equation, nine runs required from six balls.

First ball of the over, Bond running in to bowl to Kemp. Kemp smashed it over midwicket, a long way over midwicket, and the ball left the stadium. That made it just 3 runs required from 5. And the next ball was hit for four, winning the exceptional match and the series.

It was an incredible match that changed a number of times in the second innings, but in the end the huge bat of Justin Kemp guided South Africa to a superb victory. New Zealand have at some stage been on top of all three matches in the series so far, but the scoreline remains South Africa 3, New Zealand 0.

New Zealand 243-9
Scott Styris 78, Stephen Fleming 54
Makhaya Ntini 3-37, Andre Nel 2-47

South Africa 245-6
Herschelle Gibbs 81, Justin Kemp 30 no
Andre Adams 2-40, Kyle Mills 1-45

South Africa won by 4 wickets.

Cricket Web Player of the Match – Herschelle Gibbs (81)

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