Wellington: New Zealand's intense performance with the ball and in the field restricted South Africa to 147 for 6, setting up a moderate chase in Wellington. Their most in-form batsman, Martin Guptill, continued his strong summer, scoring his sixth consecutive international half-century to begin the series with a comfortable victory. The target was achieved only in the final over, but South Africa did not threaten New Zealand at any stage of the game. (Scorecard)
South Africa came into this match having beaten Canterbury in the tour game, and New Zealand targeted the players who delivered that victory. Tim Southee attacked Richard Levi with the short ball, while Guptill went after Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Apart from the 15th over of the first innings, in which Kane Williamson conceded 26, Brendon McCullum used his spinners and shuffled his bowlers to keep South Africa under pressure throughout.
A lot of that pressure was applied by tenacious and athletic fielding, and no one was better that Guptill. Hashim Amla had found his groove, and South Africa were beginning to accelerate, when he was run out by a dive reminiscent of Jonty Rhodes. Guptill had swooped on the ball from extra cover, sprinted towards the non-striker's end, and dived full stretch to plough into the stumps.
Richard Levi, who was expected to be the aggressor but was stymied by the offspinner Nathan McCullum, responded to Amla's dismissal with a six and a four, but Colin Ingram gave him no support. Ingram stepped out to Nathan McCullum and watched an offbreak curve and spin past his bat, leaving Brendon McCullum with enough time to recover from a fumble and complete the stumping.
Having lost two wickets in two overs, South Africa needed a cool head, but Levi was unable to keep one. Southee hit Levi on the helmet with his second delivery and dismissed him soon after. Under pressure, South Africa's innings lost direction in the next five overs. AB de Villiers was out to a low catch from Guptill, which was referred to the third umpire, and Duminy and Ontong could only accumulate in ones and twos.
Ontong broke the boundary drought in style, mowing Williamson for four consecutive sixes over the midwicket boundary, hitting each ball further back into the stands than the one before. Southee was brought back to control the damage and took a sharp return catch to dismiss Ontong and end the partnership on 50. Duminy did not let that setback slow him down, though, adding three more boundaries to finish as South Africa's top scorer.
After missing the last match against Zimbabwe because of a groin niggle, Guptill picked up where he had left off. He started by smacking Tsotsobe down the ground in his first over, and drove and hooked Albie Morkel. His best was saved for Tsotsobe - two massive sixes, measuring 102 and 127 metres, over the midwicket boundary.
Rusty Theron took the wicket of Rob Nicol with his first ball to end the opening partnership on 49, but followed up with a wide and a no-ball. South Africa's fast bowlers struggled to find rhythm on a pitch that was better suited to slower bowlers, of which the visitors had only one specialist in the XI.
de Villiers turned to JP Duminy in the 13th over and he had immediate success. His second delivery spun just enough to bowl Brendon McCullum off the inside edge. Instead of giving the other slow bowler in the side, Justin Ontong, a go, de Villiers persisted with the quicks, who could not tie Guptill down. Guptill got hit on the helmet by Theron, and saw both Kane Williamson and Colin de Grandhomme dismissed, but hung around to see New Zealand through to victory.