Leg-spinner Imran Tahir yesterday justified his position as the top-ranked bowler in white-ball cricket with an inspired display in South Africa’s 78-run victory over New Zealand in their one-off Twenty20 international at Eden Park.
Tahir, who took two wickets in two balls in his second over, had his figures marginally sullied by successive sixes from Colin de Grandhomme, but still finished with a career-best 5-24 in 3.5 overs, with the home batsmen unable to pick his googly.
The 37-year-old was able to build on a superb performance by opening bowler Chris Morris, who was also denied a hat-trick on his way to figures of 2-10 in his initial three-over spell.
Andile Phehlukwayo claimed three victims, including the vital wicket of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, as the hosts were dismissed for 107 in 14.5 overs in pursuit of South Africa’s 185-6.
The loss was New Zealand’s first at home this summer.
South Africa’s top order also underlined how dangerous they would be in the five match one-day series that starts tomorrow at Seddon Park in Hamilton, New Zealand, with nearly all of them making telling contributions.
While Quinton de Kock fell for a duck in the third over, Hashim Amla (62), captain Faf du Plessis (36), A.B. de Villiers (26) and J.P. Duminy (29) all scored quickly.
Amla hit nine boundaries and a six in his 43-ball innings and combined with Du Plessis in an 87-run partnership from 8.3 overs as the visitors looked well set to score in excess of 200.
However, De Grandhomme dismissed both Du Plessis and De Villiers to leave their side on 145-4 in the 16th over, ensuring the all-rounders needed to push the innings on.
Opening New Zealand bowler Trent Boult finished with an impressive 2-8 from four overs.
“We played some good cricket,” Du Plessis said. “We were consistent with the bat on a wicket that bounced and we played really well.”
AUSTRALIA VS SRI LANKA
Chamara Kapugedera yesterday smashed a boundary off the last ball to secure a thrilling five-wicket victory for Sri Lanka over Australia in the first Twenty20 international.
Needing one run off the last ball, Kapugedera drove the fuller delivery from Andrew Tye through cover to seal the match and put his team 1-0 up in the three-match contest.
With several of their top players in India for a Test series, Australia fielded a second-string team, with Michael Klinger, Billy Stanlake and Ashton Turner making their debut in T20s.
Put into bat, the hosts could not make the most of a strong start and posted a modest 168-6 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Skipper Aaron Finch (43) went on to complete his 1,000 runs in T20s, while Klinger (38) and Travis Head (31) were the other notable contributors with the bat.
Paceman Lasith Malinga, playing his first international match in 12 months, was the pick of the Sri Lanka bowlers, claiming two wickets in two balls while also taking a couple of catches on his return.
Sri Lanka skipper Upul Tharanga fell for a duck, but Dilshan Munaweera (44) and Niroshan Dickewalla (30) steadied the innings before Asela Gunaratne (52) hit his maiden fifty to take the tourists close to the win.
With Sri Lanka seemingly cruising to victory, needing 18 runs off the last three overs, Turner injected fresh excitement into the contest by claiming two wickets in the 18th over.