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South Africa keeps its chances alive

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WRECKER-IN-CHIEF: Wayne Parnell traps New Zealand’s top-scorer Ross Taylor in front of the wicket. The South African pacer returned figures of five for 57.
WRECKER-IN-CHIEF: Wayne Parnell traps New Zealand’s top-scorer Ross Taylor in front of the wicket. The South African pacer returned figures of five for 57.

S. Dinakar

Wayne Parnell scalps five; de Villiers guides the host home

Centurion: South Africa stayed alive in the competition at the SuperSport Park here on Thursday. Walking on thin ice after the defeat against Sri Lanka, the host overcame New Zealand by five wickets in a Group ‘B’ match of the ICC Champions Trophy.

Left-arm paceman Wayne Parnell scalped five after Graeme Smith elected to field and then the fluent Abraham de Villiers (70 not out, 76b, 9x4) coaxed and forced the ball through the empty spaces on both sides of the wicket to guide the side home in the 42nd over.

The lanky Parnell was adjudged Man of the Match. Even a below-par target of 215 — the Kiwis lost their last five wickets for 11 runs in 18 balls — had the potential to turn hazardous.

A blunder

Looking back, New Zealand erred by leaving out a second spinner on this surface. The Kiwis had their moments but could not quite create the kind of pressure that wins matches.

Smith’s uppish stroke off Darryl Tuffey was held at mid-on and Jacques Kallis was snared by a short-of-a-length ball outside off-stump from Shane Bond.

Hashim Amla missed one that turned from leg to middle from Daniel Vettori to be caught in front and then Brendon McCullum, standing up to paceman Kyle Mills, plucked a brilliant catch off the under-edge after Jean-Paul Duminy attempted to cut a rather widish delivery.

McCullum took an easier catch, again standing up, to dismiss Mark Boucher off Tuffey but the South Africans, collecting runs at a brisk clip, seldom allowed the stress to build.

Amla’s (38) back-footed punch on the off-side off Mills screamed for attention. Kallis (36) cover-drove Bond majestically; the duel between the two marquee cricketers was intense and Kallis survived a vociferous shout for a caught behind decision. Replays suggested the decision was right. The fleet-footed de Villiers batted with typical panache, driving with a flourish on the off-side and picking runs off his legs. He used the crease well to convert the length.

With Mark Boucher and Albie Morkel providing handy support, the South Africans nailed the pursuit amidst rousing cheers from a colourful crowd.

Eventually, New Zealand did not have adequate runs to defend. Earlier, the Kiwis stumbled in the last stretch. The anticipated acceleration never arrived with pacemen Parnell and Dale Steyn striking hard.

Parnell’s bowling was a mixed bag. There were instances when he provided width and was punished for it. He picked up wickets at the beginning and the end of the innings.

Jesse Ryder was just getting into his stride when he mistimed a stroke to be spectacularly held by a leaping van der Merwe at mid-wicket. This was an important strike.

The paceman got the ball to angle across the right-hander at a decent pace. During the latter stages of the innings, Parnell smartly went round the wicket to cut down on the width. His victims included a fighting Ross Taylor (72, 106b, 6x4, 2x6) who missed a full length ball to be adjudged leg-before.

Steyn worked up real speed, bowled with consistency and hustled the batsmen with short-pitched deliveries. Kallis gave little away with his short-of-a-good length deliveries around the off-stump.

Operating with control

And van der Merwe operated with control. He is not a natural flighter of the ball but does get his deliveries to drift into the right-hander. The ball straightened on a few occasions, spun away sharply on the others. The left-arm spinner’s middle-and-off line enhanced his bowling. He castled a well-set Grant Elliott (39, 48b, 4x4) when the batsman played inside the line of a delivery which straightened and trapped Niel Broom leg-before with the one that kept a shade low.

Off-spinner Johan Botha prised out a threatening Brendon McCullum (44, 68b, 3x4, 2x6) on the sweep. The Kiwi innings largely revolved on Taylor, who cut and swept well.

There were a couple of slog-swept sixes from his blade too; at the expense of Kallis and van der Merwe. Yet, his was an innings of application than flamboyance. McCullum promised much — he flat-batted Albie Morkel over long-on for the maximum — but could not kick on. The South Africans won the key moments.

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