AUCKLAND: Faf du Plessis led South Africa to a resounding six-wicket victory over New Zealand in their crunch one-day international finale in Auckland Saturday to wrap up the series 3-2.
South Africa needed less than 33 overs to overhaul New Zealand’s 149 with du Plessis ending the game with a boundary which also brought up his half century.
The New Zealand innings folded at the start of their 42nd over and while South Africa lost early wickets in reply, du Plessis (51 not out) held the innings together with partnerships of 40 with AB de Villiers and an unbeaten 63 with David Miller.
De Villiers’ 23 was his lowest score and only the third time he was dismissed in the series where he averaged 87.33.
But he was at the crease long enough to assist de Plessis in turning the innings around after South Africa, like New Zealand, started out losing wickets cheaply.
A swash-buckling David Miller then belted 45 off 35 deliveries to partner du Plessis through to the end.
After New Zealand’s thumping seven-wicket victory in game four to level the series at 2-2, South Africa looked to stamp their mark early.
When De Villiers won the toss and opted to bowl, the world’s number one spinner Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada led a disciplined attack that decimated the New Zealand batting.
Tahir’s 10 overs produced two for 14, while Rabada took three for 25 off 7.1.
South Africa’s response was not all plain sailing with Quinton de Kock (six), Hashim Amla (eight) and JP Duminy (three) out early to have the tourists three for 48 in the 16th over, comparable to New Zealand’s four for 51 at the same stage.
But from there du Plessis and de Villiers pushed the score up to 88 before being joined by Miller through to the end.
New Zealand’s best performer with the bat was Colin de Grandhomme who made 32 batting at number eight, while Dean Brownlie, Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner all made 24 and were the only other batsmen to reach double figures.
Martin Guptill, who tormented South Africa with his match-winning 180 in the previous encounter, was first out for four in a brief 16-ball stay.
Kane Williamson (nine) and Santner were both run out while Brownlie and Ross Taylor (eight) fell lbw to Andile Phehlukwayo.
In the closing stages, with New Zealand desperate to prolong their innings, Jeetan Patel was the ninth wicket to fall when he walked on an lbw appeal by Tahir.
New Zealand had a review left but chose not to use it although replays subsequently showed the ball would have missed the stumps.
The two sides start a three-Test series in Dunedin next Wednesday.