South Africa win 4-0

A dismal collapse by New Zealand was made irrelevant by even more dismal weather, as a spectacular electrical storm descended on Pretoria during the fifth one day international between New Zealand and South Africa. New Zealand lost their last seven wickets for 81 runs after making a superb start, a collapse from which New Zealand never had much chance of recovering.

New Zealand’s quest to avoid another narrow defeat got off to close to the worst possible start, with Stephen Fleming being caught behind off Pollock for 0 to the second ball of the match. Nathan Astle looked to be continuing his poor series in this match when he struggled early in the innings and had some early luck, mistiming and edging a hook off a Pollock delivery that went over slip for four. Lou Vincent decided to imitate his batting partner, edging his next ball through the same area, also for four. Later in the over though he played a shot in which there was no luck involved at all, a powerful drive through long on which bounced just once inside the boundary. Astle still wasn’t quite comfortable though, hitting a ball in the next over back to Pollock at catchable height, but luckily for Astle hit well enough to run away to the boundary. When Astle gloved a leg-side delivery for four next ball the score had quickly reached 28-1, and Astle seemed to be just starting to work his way out of his form slump.

The score increased by six early in the next over when Vincent swung hard at a delivery from Ntini that went high over the bowler’s head and landed just on the other side of the boundary. Astle continued what appeared to be a plan of hitting his way into form, a plan that looked to be going very well, and with Vincent striking the ball cleanly the run rate reached 6, with the fifty partnership coming up in the ninth over. The score reached 57-1 from 9 overs before, conveniently for South Africa who were rather in need of a break, the rain came and play was suspended.

After a long delay, players returned to the field, surprisingly with no overs lost. Having lost all the momentum they had before the break, the New Zealanders’ trouble started when they tried to pick up where they left off, Astle started well in hitting two boundaries in one Andre Nel over, one a glorious shot through cover and the other another little piece of luck, a bottom edge that narrowly missed his leg stump. But his luck ran out in the next over when he swung hard at a Charl Langeveldt ball, hit it very high but not quite hard enough, caught in the outfield by Andrew Hall, Astle’s promising 37 ending and New Zealand at 75-2. Astle’s innings showed some good signs for New Zealand supporters going in to the upcoming Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series of 2005.

The departure of Astle brought to the crease another struggling player on whom New Zealand’s batting relies, Hamish Marshall. Marshall has averaged well under 20 in the Zimbabwe and South Africa tours combined, and needed to follow Astle’s example and try to rediscover some of the form that made him among New Zealand’s best players last season. He had a nervous swing and miss before taking a quick single, and when he took another single early in the next over it became clear that he was intending to keep Vincent on strike and himself in the safety of the non-striker’s end. It was a good idea, as Vincent continued his quick scoring with an impressive aerial cover drive for four next ball, before having a bit of luck not long afterwards with a ball he hit straight up in the air landing safely, but then he went back to playing powerful shots off the front foot to move into the forties at almost a run a ball. But Marshall was once again unable to get going, caught by Mark Boucher off Langeveldt for 3, the score looking a bit less appealing to New Zealand supporters at 91-3. The loss didn’t stop Vincent though, who smashed his second six of the innings to reach 48. That became a half century in the next over, having faced just 52 deliveries.

Luck seemed to be very much on Vincent’s side. He hit a ball straight up in the air only to have a straightforward chance dropped by Pollock just outside the circle, and then he edged yet another four through the slips not long afterwards.

The partnership between Vincent and Scott Styris looked to be developing nicely with both playing some beautiful shots, but with the score on 134 an excellent ball from Hall caught the edge and Styris was out for 19. As their supersub was a batsman, New Zealand were then forced to make the substitution at this early stage of the match, bringing Craig McMillan in to replace Andre Adams, whose contribution to the match ended before it began.

Vincent’s excellent innings came to an end when he was deceived by a slower ball from Hall, mistimed it and was brilliantly caught at cover by AB DeVilliers, Vincent out for 66 and New Zealand in an uncomfortable position at 141-5. It got even worse in Hall’s next over, the bowler taking his third wicket when McMillan was given out lbw for 9, but McMillan could consider himself unlucky as the ball appeared to hit him quite high on his leg and would have likely cleared the stumps. But it’s the umpire’s opinion that counts and 152-6 was the score. Daniel Vettori was run out next ball by a direct hit, so make that 152-7, with four wickets having fallen in a period of six overs, and a 4-0 series scoreline looking extremely likely.

Brendon McCullum, the last real hope for New Zealand’s batting effort, and James Franklin built a solid partnership made up of almost exclusively singles and twos to help the score creep up towards something defendable, with McCullum taking the majority of the strike while Franklin provided vital support at the other end, something that Vincent didn’t have a lot of after Astle’s wicket fell. But once the partnership reached 33 and the team score 185, Franklin edged a ball from Nel, brilliantly caught by Boucher to end his innings of 12. And then the vital wicket fell when Hall got the edge of McCullum’s bat, ending his innings of 27 and making the score 187-9.

Kyle Mills and Shane Bond batted well in the final overs, including a massive six by Bond off Ntini in the last over, to guide New Zealand through to 215 before Mills went for a big hit too and was caught on the boundary.

Graeme Smith started the chase of 216 brightly, attacking both Mills and Bond and getting the run rate up early as the threatening clouds approached SuperSport Park, to make sure the home side were on the right side of the Duckworth/Lewis system if it was to be required. DeVilliers at the other end was looking much less comfortable, as shown by an extremely fortunate inside edge for four off Bond that missed the leg stump by the smallest of margins.

A tense battle took place between Mills and Smith, with a fair share of excellent bowling, great shots, and some words between the two. All the while, the clouds got closer, clouds that were close to black and had regular lightning flashes.

The score reached 50, and the clouds got closer still. DeVilliers continued to narrowly avoid being dismissed by Bond in what was now completely artificial light, the ground looking more like the second half of a day/nighter than the middle of the afternoon. The wind picked up.

As Smith moved into the upper forties (and as the clouds got closer), the battling innings of DeVilliers came to an end, caught at slip by Fleming off the bowling of Mills for 11, the score 61-1 in the eleventh over.

The introduction of Franklin to the attack brought a decrease in the run rate, Franklin going for just two runs in his first two overs. But after batting out a maiden against Franklin, Smith hit a four off Mills to bring up his fifty at better than a run a ball. And in Franklin’s next over, Smith took to him in a big way, charging and putting him off his line and length. Franklin got his revenge in his next over, after Smith got a lucky edge through slips for four he bottom edged the next ball on to his stumps, out for a great 66 and the score a dominant 103-2 in the 18th over.

With just one over remaining before it was officially a match to be decided by the Duckworth/Lewis system the storm arrived and looked set to save New Zealand. But then, remarakably, the rain stopped and the outfield was dried quickly enough for play to resume, and South Africa were asked to chase just 40 runs in 11 overs, a task they achieved for the loss of three further wickets, two to Vettori and one to Styris.

So the final result of the series is 4-0 to South Africa, a result they deserved through playing better cricket overall, but New Zealand can be very disappointed with the result as they had plenty of opportunities to win every match.

New Zealand 215
Lou Vincent 66, Nathan Astle 37
Andrew Hall 4-23, Charl Langeveldt 2-36

South Africa 140-5
Graeme Smith 66, Mark Boucher 22 no
Daniel Vettori 2-18, James Franklin 1-19

South Africa won by 5 wickets (D/L method).

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Andrew Hall (4-23)

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