Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor play good hands for New Zealand but fail to prevent two-run defeat
JP Duminy set South Africa up perfectly with a blazing unbeaten 86 that set New Zealand a stiff target of 171, but it still needed a dramatic spell of fast bowling from Dale Steyn to secure a tense two-run win.
Duminy did not count himself as one of those having the X-factor when he discussed Steyn and Lasith Malinga ahead of South Africa’s game against New Zealand, but he set the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong alight on Monday (March 24) with a batting display of the highest quality in an ICC World Twenty20 Group 1 game.
Put in to bat, South Africa was in real danger of being forced to settle for a middling score when it started badly once more. At the end of the six Power Play overs, 39 runs were on the board for the loss of two wickets, one of those being Faf du Plessis, the captain, who returned to action having recovered sufficiently from a hamstring injury.
With du Plessis and AB de Villiers both falling cheaply, Hashim Amla, an accumulator at the best of times, was forced to drop anchor. Amla was never going to be the driving force behind a big score, but he did help calm the nerves in a 55-run partnership that allowed Duminy to build a strong base.
Amla never really got stuck, in terms of scoring, but ones and twos with the occasional four only got him to 41 off 40 balls before he was dismissed in the most bizarre fashion. Hitting Corey Anderson straight back, Amla made a clean connection, and unfortunately Duminy, at the non striker’s end, could not get his bat out of the way in time, the ricochet lobbing to the bowler for a simple catch.
Around this time, Duminy began to change gear, pulling out the ramp shot over the ‘keeper, walking across his stumps to play the pick-up shot over midwicket and clearing his front leg to launch the ball back down the ground.
For a time, Duminy could do no wrong, every attempted shot either finding the gap or clearing the infield. His half-century, his seventh in T20 Internationals, came off only 31 balls, but the best was yet to come. Duminy smacked 36 off the final 12 balls he faced, taking three fours off a Tim Southee over and following that up with two fours and a six off Kyle Mills.
With the lower order not really providing adequate support, Duminy had to do all the power hitting, and he did not fail, ending up unbeaten on 86 from only 43 balls. Duminy’s effort lifted South Africa to 170 for 6, and his team went into the break knowing it had never lost when it had put as many on the board.
If South Africa’s score was achieved on the back of individual brilliance, New Zealand’s chase was built, typically, on a team effort. Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson set the tone at the top, being aggressive without over attacking. At the end of the Power Play, New Zealand was yet to lose a wicket, and had 47 on the board.
Given the run rate New Zealand needed to keep going at, Guptill tried to up the ante against Albie Morkel, but did not quite get hold of a pull and Quinton de Kock settled under the skier with ease. Guptill had made only 22 of New Zealand’s 57, and Brendon McCullum was at the crease with plenty of overs at his disposal. But his stay was short lived, a premeditated charge down the pitch being well spotted by Imran Tahir, who floated the ball wide for de Kock to complete a simple stumping.
Williamson, meanwhile, had built good momentum, reaching his half-century off 31 balls, the same number of balls that Duminy took to reach the landmark earlier in the day. Ross Taylor came out swinging, taking Morne Morkel for a hat-trick of sixes, a blast over long-on followed by a top edge over third man and sealed with a flat slap over backward square-leg.
Steyn returned in the 14th over, with South Africa desperate for a breakthrough, and he delivered. Williamson (51), went for the pull, but was hurried on the shot and de Villiers took an excellent catch on the square-leg boundary, diving full length. The dismissal brought much-needed respite as Colin Munro could not get going against Steyn right away and then was tied up in knots by Tahir before holing out to midwicket.
With 29 needed off the final three overs, and Steyn bowling two of those, New Zealand had left itself with more to do at the death than it would have liked. A tuck to fine-leg and a thick edge past the ‘keeper brought six from the first two balls, but Steyn had his revenge when Anderson holed out to long-on. With only 8 runs coming off the over, New Zealand needed 21 off the final two.
Luke Ronchi chipped a four over mid-off and Taylor carved a brace of boundaries through point, leaving New Zealand needing 7 off the final Steyn over. Ronchi was spectacularly caught behind off the first ball, and Nathan McCullum swung twice, connecting only with air before flaying the fourth ball over mid-off for four. Attempting to repeat the stroke, Nathan fell, leaving Taylor on strike for the final ball, with three runs still needed. A full, straight ball was too good for Taylor (62 in 37 balls), and Steyn collected in his follow-through to break the stumps and give South Africa a two-run win. Steyn, who ended with 4 for 17, had once again delivered a dramatic win.