Amla’s 92 took South Africa smoothly to within striking distance of the target, after a middle-order collapse from New Zealand had seen them bowled out in 47.3 overs for a woefully inadequate 230. Morne Morkel brushed aside the lower order and the tail, exploiting a hard pitch that supplemented his natural bounce, to collect each of New Zealand’s last five wickets. South Africa were never at risk of fluffing an easy chase, with Amla at the rudder.
Less than 24 hours after Virat Kohli and India put on an exhibition in Powerplay batting, New Zealand spat up a performance at the other end of the spectrum, which derailed their innings, and effectively surrendered the match. Having overcome a tougher early period, the hosts skated to 163 for 2 in the 33rd over before unraveling dramatically. Brainless aggression from New Zealand, and superb execution in the field from South Africa, saw three wickets fall while the field was in, before two more quick strikes crushed any New Zealand hopes of a respectable total on what South Africa proved was a dream batting surface.
Kane Williamson’s dismissal began the slide, but he was more the victim of terrific work from South Africa than his own folly. With mid-on and mid-off up, he attempted to loft Tsotsobe straight, but was fooled by the lack of pace and ended up launching it high in the air. He might have got away with it were it not for an outstanding backpedalling take from Jacques Kallis, who arched back and plucked the ball from two feet behind him as it hurtled down.
Brendon McCullum was next to go, after another promising half-century, picking out the fielder on the fence for the second time in as many matches, after Lonwabo Tsotsobe had invited his aerial leg-side flick with a full ball on the pads. Jesse Ryder’s series failed to improve, as he too perished offering a poor stroke, to an angled Dale Steyn delivery that caught the edge as it moved across him.
Morkel scythed through the New Zealand tail after Tsotsobe and Steyn had made the incision in the middle order. He was on a hat-trick twice, with only Tim Southee’s defiant 27-ball 28, breaking up his string of wickets. He finished with 5 for 38, his first five-wicket haul in ODIs.
At the end of their innings, New Zealand had lost eight wickets for 67, after Martin Guptill’s 107-run partnership with McCullum had set them on track for 300.
Amla’s imperious uppercut in the third over of the chase ignited a ten-ball salvo that yielded six fours, and launched South Africa’s chase into a breakneck pace that did not relent until his dismissal in the 32nd over. Jacques Kallis departed early, after opening in place of an injured Graeme Smith, but Amla progressed unfazed, lacing crisp boundaries square on the off side during the mandatory Powerplay to propel the scoring rate beyond six an over, where it stayed for the entirety of the innings.
Faf du Plessis took little time to get in and match Amla’s tempo, proving the trueness of the surface. The pair cavorted at close to seven an over at times, buffeting the square boundaries, but also ensuring the cover and straight fence got a pounding whenever the New Zealand bowlers over-corrected their lengths. du Plessis’ departure to a clever catch from Martin Guptill, who tossed the ball to himself as he stepped over the square-leg boundary and then back in, did not slow the scoring, as JP Duminy resumed where his teammate left off and Amla cruised beyond 50.
Legspinner Tarun Nethula was the only bowler to trouble Amla, but with South Africa having made half New Zealand’s target by the 20th over, the hosts had seemingly lost hope, which only compounded their woes. Nethula should have had Amla twice in one over, but the first top edge eluded fielders, while the second was shelled by Rob Nicol at long off. Jesse Ryder then frustrated Nethula further, by spilling Duminy, before Nethula caught the batsman himself, leaving nothing to his teammates who were seemingly already resigned to loss.
Nethula grew in confidence as his spell wore on, even finding turn on the rock-hard surface that Robin Peterson had earlier found difficult to bowl on. He bamboozled Amla several times before eventually having him caught behind, in sight of his tenth one-day hundred. AB de Villiers and Justin Ontong sauntered home under little pressure.
McCullum’s 85 and Guptill’s 58 were the only bright spots for New Zealand with the bat. Their partnership came at almost a run-a-ball as they looked to make the most of the favourable conditions. Though a spineless performance from the middle order will bear most of the blame, both set batsmen will be distraught not to have converted their half-centuries, and guided their side closer to a competitive total. New Zealand now only have pride to play for in Auckland on Saturday.