HAMILTON, New Zealand: A polished Quinton de Kock half century laid the foundation for South Africa's four wicket win over New Zealand in a tense finish to a rain-shortened opening one-day international in Hamilton on Sunday (Feb 19).
In a clash that went down to the wire, it was a man-of-the-match performance from de Kock on a wicket that took an exceptional amount of spin in New Zealand conditions.
The departure of de Kock for 69 sparked a middle order collapse as even the New Zealand quicks turned to bowling cutters on the responsive pitch before an AB de Villiers rescue mission saw his side home with a ball to spare.
"We never expected it to turn like that in Hamilton," de Villiers said. "From past experience this becomes a really good batting track in the evening but that was far from it."
With the fixture reduced to 34 overs a side following heavy rain early in the day, New Zealand posted 207 for seven, boosted by a whirlwind 51 off 23 balls at the end by unbeaten pair Colin de Grandhomme and Tim Southee.
But any thoughts New Zealand had that they were in a strong performance were soon dashed by the way de Kock launched into South Africa's reply.
"At the halfway stage we felt we were right in the game," captain Kane Williamson said.
"We knew needing five and a half on that surface was going to be difficult and they got off to a very good start which made chasing down that total a lot easier."
"South Africa showed their class with the bat, batted very well and their composure towards the end was very important on a tough surface"
South Africa went into the final over of their reply requiring 12 to win, and de Villiers ended the game with a four off the fifth ball of Tim Southee's over.
With de Kock in sublime form, assisted by Hashim Amla, South Africa started their run chase strongly with an 88-run stand.
Williamson used five bowling changes in the first 15 overs in an attempt to break up the pair but only succeeded when he put himself, a part-time spinner, on and had Amla caught and bowled for 35.
Faf du Plessis (14) joined de Kock to get the score to 117 when the South African innings suffered a collapse with five wickets falling in the space of 39 runs.
Trent Boult had de Kock caught in a sharp piece of fielding by Ross Taylor at short midwicket and Tim Southee removed JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardein with consecutive deliveries.
Chris Morris survived the hat-trick ball and made 16 before his dismissal had South Africa at 156-6 with 44 balls remaining.
De Villiers with 37 off 34 balls and Andile Phehulkwayo (29 off 23) combined efforts to get the tourists home.
De Grandhomme and Southee's whirlwind partnership gave the New Zealand innings a respectable look after they too suffered a middle order collapse.
De Grandhomme was unbeaten on 34 off 19 balls while Southee faced 13 balls to be 24 not out.
They were particularly harsh on the most successful of the South African bowlers, Morris, smacking the all-rounder for 25 in the final over.
It saw Morris's figures balloon out to four for 62 off his seven overs, after he had four for 24 off five.
Morris had left the New Zealand top order in tatters with only Kane Williamson (59) and Dean Brownlie (31) offering any resistance.