After keeping South Africa to a below-par score on a small ground with short boundaries, New Zealand were on track to cruise to victory and needed less than a-run-a-ball by the 15th over. However, tight bowling from Johan Botha and Morne Morkel dragged New Zealand back, before de Lange’s last-over heroics gave South Africa an unlikely win.
Jesse Ryder, who made his return after a calf injury, scored a typically meaty half-century to take New Zealand to the brink. He slowed down as he approached his fifty and looked to bring it up – and the win closer – with an adventurous shot against Johan Botha. With New Zealand requiring eight, he walked across his stumps to scoop over fine leg but was caught by Morne Morkel on the edge of the circle. That meant the 19th over had cost just three runs and left New Zealand with a new batsman at the crease with seven needed of the last over.
De Lange, playing in just the third twenty-over match of his career, was brought on. His first ball was full. James Franklin drilled the ball to long-off and raced through. Nathan McCullum faced the next ball. It was short and wide but he let it through, expecting it to be called wide – it wasn’t. Then, he panicked. Nathan tried to pull the third ball but only succeeded in gloving it high, to give AB de Villiers a catch.
As de Lange’s confidence grew, New Zealand’s shrank and he banged in a bouncer to new batsman Doug Bracewell, who swung hard but missed. The next ball was full and Bracewell slogged but found Hashim Amla, diving forward at point. So New Zealand needed six runs off the last ball and there would be one more twist. De Lange overstepped and Franklin scurried through. The equation changed and four were required of the final delivery but Tim Southee’s swing found only fresh air as de Lange held his nerve to bowl full outside off. And so he had inflicted an unlikely defeat on an opposition, the type of which has so often been experienced by South Africa.
De Lange’s performance turned around a largely uninspired performance from the rest of the seamers, who veered too often on the leg-side line. It was up to Botha, who was his usual wily, miserly self, to apply the brakes after New Zealand’s openers were off to a speedy start – Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill shared a stand of 65 in six overs. Nicol regularly took the ball from outside off and planted on the leg side but, eventually, he did that one too many times and was caught in the deep.
With Guptill also falling for a misjudged aerial shot, the stage was set for Ryder to take New Zealand home. He started with a streaky boundary off a thick outside edge that flew through the vacant second slip area but then he pulled, charged down the track to loft and slapped through the offside with his usual power. His display of disdain put pressure on South Africa, who made careless errors in the field, dropped him once and sent down 12 wides.
Despite the visitors lapses, New Zealand committed even more with bat in hand. Brendon McCullum swung at a short ball and was caught behind and Kane Williamson had no control over a shot he skied to mid-wicket. It left the middle-order with too much to do after a controlled performance from New Zealand in the field should have been enough to win them the match.
They struck three times in the first eight overs to remove Richard Levi, makeshift No.3 Albie Morkel and Amla. de Villiers and Duminy built a partnership in the old-fashioned way, taking two overs to establish themselves before Duminy struck a glorious, high-elbowed six into the stands.
The pair had found good rhythm when Duminy was run out by Nicol against the run of play, backing up too far at the non-striker’s end. Nicol had created an opening and he prised it apart even further in the next over. He bowled de Villiers when the South Africa captain missed a slog-sweep and struck Justin Ontong on the thigh to have him out lbw. The wickets forced South Africa to slow down and allowed Bracewell and Southee to put together a string of ten dot balls that ended with the wicket of Johan Botha – a one-handed snatch out of the sky by Martin Guptill.
Wayne Parnell and Robin Peterson rallied to take 27 runs off the last three overs but South Africa still ended up with a total that would take a disciplined effort, or a few moments of magic, to defend. Between Botha and de Lange, they provided enough of that.