A night to remember for Black Caps
After a thorough drubbing in the test series, the New Zealand cricketers stood tall for the first time on their South African tour after they clinched the one-day international series 2-0.
“To be able to win a game is the greatest feeling there is and to have beaten South Africa, in South Africa, is some achievement and we'll hold onto that for a long time,” said captain Brendon McCullum after the Black Caps beat the Proteas by 27 runs in Kimberley on Tuesday.
It was their second win on the trot after they narrowly won the first of the three-match series, in Paarl, by one wicket.
McCullum had frequently stressed the fact that their most experienced players were absent from this tour – a combination of internal politics as well as injuries which have been well-documented – and said the enormity of the task had sunk in well before the tour began.
“We knew how big an ODI series this was with South Africa ranked No 1 in the world when we arrived here, and us at No 9,” he said.
“They were playing in their own conditions and, after they beat us very comfortably in the tests, we knew we would have to play out of our skins to get these victories.”
He said his young team had shown some fighting qualities in the first match which had flowed into the second game.
“I'm so proud of each and every one of my players and also the support staff and everyone who has helped us get here,” McCullum said.
“I am also pleased to have given something back to the fans back home who had stuck with us through some pretty tough times.”
After posting a total of 279, the Kiwis were under pressure at the start of South Africa's run chase.
Graeme Smith's 129-run second-wicket partnership with Colin Ingram set the foundation for a winning platform and both batsmen looked ready to crack on to hundreds.
However, Smith's run out – the first of five in the innings – changed everything as it also seemed to ignite a spark in the fielding team.
“We were definitely under pressure at that point and we were a fair way behind in the game,” McCullum said.
“But we also knew we had a good score on the board and if we could just hang in there and keep fighting, we could get one or two wickets and then try and exert some pressure back on them.
“Five run-outs in a game is an amazing effort and testament to how good our attitude was and also to the execution that we developed as the game went on.”
Faf du Plessis followed Smith back to the hut when he was run out just eight balls later.
The New Zealand tails were up as the momentum swung in their favour and they kept applying the pressure to expose the inexperienced middle order.
New Zealand's competitive total came courtesy of Kane Williamson's 145 not-out – the highest individual score by a Kiwi against South Africa – and his partnership of 127 runs off 130 balls with Grant Elliott (48).
McCullum shrugged off criticism that only a few of his batsmen had fired on the tour and said very few teams ever played a perfect game.
“Scores are often made up of a couple of individuals performing well and a few guys chipping in around them and that's what we saw in this game,” he said.
“It was an amazing innings from Kane and the partnership he and Grant were able to manufacture was what really gave us a good launching pad.
“Yes there are areas to work on definitely but let's not underplay what we've just achieved as well. We want to keep improving as a team but we're pretty pleased with what we achieved so far.”