Match of the fortnight: New Zealand vs South Africa

The Proteas will look back at the match against the Kiwis as an opportunity lost.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson shakes hands with the South African players after guiding his team to victory at Edgbaston in Birmingham.   -  AP

Kane Williamson displayed composure and technical nous under pressure. The South Africans, under pressure to win and keep their World Cup hopes alive, choked.

The close encounter in Birmingham was eventually won by Williamson’s class and Colin de Grandhomme’s astonishing striking ability on a two-paced surface.

Williamson’s unbeaten 106 was not among his most fluent innings. There were occasions when he struggled for timing during the chase of 242.

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Yet, the Kiwi skipper, while coming up with his maiden World Cup hundred, displayed loads of character. He guided the innings through choppy waters when Chris Morris, bowling with verve, had made serious inroads.

And Williamson was there at the very end when New Zealand required 12 runs off the last seven balls. With the precision of a surgeon, he steered Lungi Ngidi’s last ball of the penultimate over to the third man fence.

Then, with eight needed off the last over, he slog-swept the second delivery from Andile Phehlukwayo for the maximum. Soon arrived the winning run.

Yet, the Proteas will look back at the match as an opportunity lost. They could have, with better decision-making, sent back Williamson.

The New Zealander had nicked one from leg-spinner Imran Tahir to ’keeper Quinton de Kock when just into his 70s. Tahir seemed excited but de Kock appeared disinterested. South Africa had a review left but opted not to take it. Replays confirmed an edge.

As the contest moved towards the climactic phase, plenty of drama was on view as David Miller flung himself around frantically inside the circle but could not latch on to half chances.

And New Zealand moved closer to the target. Grandhomme, 60 off 47, stroked the ball majestically. The Zimbabwean-born cricketer is such an effortless striker of the sphere.

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Earlier, Rassie van der Dussen’s combative 67 not out gave South Africa a reasonable total to defend but as Faf du Plessis said later, his side was around 20 runs short on this surface.

Actually, South Africa was also short on big-match temperament, that ability to create chances. In fact, this was a match where the Proteas were unable to take chances that came their way.

Williamson, the Man of the Match, was not complaining though.