South Africa 179/6 (20 overs)
New Zealand 146/9 (20 overs)
South Africa won by 33 runs and clinch series 2-1
PORT ELIZABETH: The Boland may be famous for its wine exports, but it has also certainly produced two fine cricketers in Henry Davids and Justin Ontong.
And it was these two that fashioned a Twenty20 series win for the Proteas yesterday in front of a rousing Boxing Day crowd at St George’s Park yesterday. Cricket South Africa may have taken criticism for the cancellation of the traditional Test over the festive period this year, but nobody who was singing along with the local band here was complaining yesterday.
Only 15 days separate Davids and Ontong in age, resulting in a long-lasting friendship that developed over their formative years at Boland Park. This symmetry came to the fore when it mattered most for South Africa, with the pair combining in perfect unison to post a match-winning 89-run partnership in just 10.1 overs.
It was not just the number of runs that was important, but also the timing of it.
South Africa seemed to still to be suffering from a Christmas hangover in the series finale, losing two early wickets – that of captain Faf du Plessis and young wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock – within the first powerplay.
But Ontong, playing in his first match of the series after Richard Levi was dropped, had a point to prove to the selectors. He was originally omitted from this series after not playing a game at the World T20 in Sri Lanka, and was only recalled after captain AB de Villiers withdrew due to fatigue.
With steely determination, Ontong played with the freedom he regularly shows for the Cape Cobras. He was particularly severe on James Franklin, smashing the Black Caps left-armer for two consecutive sixes during his 30-ball 48. Davids, meanwhile, just continued his good form from the previous match in East London to register a second consecutive half-century in only his third T20I.
The pair’s running between the wickets was excellent too, with almost telepathic calling, although Davids’s timing throughout his innings was a standout feature of his 68 off 51 balls. A sign of a classy cricketer is the ability to stand still and hit through the line without much effort, and Davids delivered some beauties in this regard.
He had a bit of luck – he was dropped on 32 by Martin Guptill – but for the rest, it was simply classical lofted cover drives and strong punches off the back foot.
“Henry has been excellent throughout this series. He has really played well,” Proteas skipper Du Plessis said. “I’m really happy for him. He has done well for the last couple of seasons domestically and in the Champions League. There has been a culture recently of players coming into the side and doing well, and this is a good indication of the strength of our domestic product.”
South Africa have been the better side throughout the series, with only an inspirational Guptill century getting New Zealand over the line from the last ball in the second match in East London. And yesterday the Proteas bowlers wanted to correct their mistakes of that evening. Ryan McLaren started the rot when he sent Rob Nicol back to the dugout early on.
And even when Guptill and Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum threatened in the powerplay, the Proteas simply had too many arrows in their quiver. Only on this occasion, it was delivered by Aaron Phangiso.
The dew at Buffalo Park had severely impacted on the left-arm spinner’s performance on debut, but with a dry ball and helpful surface at St George’s Park, Phangiso (3/25) proved why he was thoroughly deserving of his first international call-up. He claimed both Kiwi big fish – Guptill and McCullum – and that was the beginning of the end for the Black Caps.
McLaren (3/25) returned to deliver the coup de grace with another two scalps of his own.
“I think we bowled excellently throughout the series. We showed good composure when it mattered and I think we did really nicely,” Du Plessis said. “I had a feeling before the game that Phangi was going to bowl well. He enjoys two-paced surfaces and it just shows the good character he possesses to come back from the other evening. You could just see the nerves settling after he claimed his first wicket.”