Kane Williamson on Wednesday produced a master class of controlled batting to lead New Zealand to a tense four-wicket victory against South Africa at Edgbaston, realistically killing off the Proteas’ hopes of reaching the Cricket World Cup semi-finals.
The Black Caps’ skipper kept his cool at the end of a nerve-jangling match that went down to the last over with eight runs still required, hoisting Andile Phehlukwayo for a huge six over midwicket to bring up a majestic century.
He sliced the next ball for four as New Zealand reached their target of 242 with three balls to spare in a match reduced to 49 overs per side due to a wet outfield.
The close finish in Birmingham was just the tonic the World Cup needed after a string of one-sided results and rain-ruined fixtures sapped the tournament’s momentum.
The win put unbeaten New Zealand top of the 10-team table in the round-robin phase of the competition in England and Wales, while South Africa are languishing third from bottom after just one win in six matches.
Williamson, who finished on 106 not out, was helped by Colin de Grandhomme’s superb 60 off 47 balls on a tricky pitch after New Zealand had slipped to 137-5.
England’s captain rode his luck when South Africa failed to ask for a review before replays showed he had edged a ball from Imran Tahir to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock when on 76.
South Africa missed a golden chance to run him out at the start of the 41st over and he was dropped by Lungi Ngidi when on 85, but off a no-ball.
“There’s a huge amount to learn from this performance,” Williamson said. “The experiences that you have by being put under pressure on a number of different occasions, whether it’s with the bat or the ball, having close games in tournaments like the World Cup are great to be a part of, especially when you come out on the right side of things.”
Earlier, Martin Guptill hit his way into the record books, just not in the way he wanted.
The opening batsman became the first New Zealander to be dismissed by hitting his own wicket in any Cricket World Cup tournament, dating back as far as 1975.
Not that he meant to.
Guptill swiveled to play a hook shot against South African seamer Andile Phehlukwayo in the 15th over. He made contact with the ball before doing the full 360° turn — so far, so good — before slipping and feeling his right foot hit something else altogether.
As his partner Williamson came running down the wicket for a single, and South African fielder Ngidi went chasing the ball, something strange was happening: Guptill was already out.
One of the bails had left the top of Guptill’s middle and leg stumps. He was out for 35.
Ross Taylor and Tom Latham followed quickly to leave New Zealand struggling at 80-4.
Jimmy Neesham (23) steadied the ship with his skipper, but when he was out the Black Caps were plunged back into trouble.
De Grandhomme came to New Zealand’s rescue, batting positively and bringing up his fifty off 39 balls, but he was caught in the deep by South Africa captain Faf du Plessis off Ngidi in the penultimate over.
Despite the late drama, Williamson kept his cool to see the beaten 2015 finalists home — they finished on 245-6.
Earlier, Rassie van der Dussen gave South Africa something to bowl at as the Proteas — who lost a thrilling semi-final to New Zealand four years ago — struggled to 241-6 after losing the toss.
Hashim Amla made a sluggish 55 off 83 balls, but Van der Dussen’s 67 not out came at better than a run a ball.
During his innings, Amla became the fourth South African to reach 8,000 runs in one-day internationals.
Additional reporting by AP
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