New Zealand cruised to the top of the table with a fantastic four-wicket win in their ICC Cricket World Cup contest against South Africa in Birmingham on Wednesday.
The ghosts of the 2015 World Cup semi-final once again came to haunt South Africa at Edgbaston as New Zealand yet again finished on the winning side, chasing a target of 242.
The start of the game was delayed due to wet outfield and was eventually reduced to 49 overs a side. Sent in to bat, South Africa got off to a shaky start, losing opener Quinton de Kock early in the second over for 5 off a bit of Trent Boult brilliance – it was the fifth time the South African became the paceman’s victim in ODI cricket.
The New Zealand quicks kept Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis in check for a while. However, just when the partnership started to flourish, Lockie Ferguson cleaned up du Plessis for 23. Aiden Markram also shared a crucial 52-run stand with Amla, but the latter’s wicket saw South Africa stuttering at 111/3.
Both of Markram (38) and David Miller (36) got starts but failed to convert their innings into a big one. It was Rassie van der Dussen who top-scored for his side, his unbeaten 67 from 64 lifting South Africa to 241/6.
New Zealand too lost an early wicket as Kagiso Rabada had Colin Munro caught and bowled for 9. Guptill along with Williamson played with caution and made steady progress.
The duo accumulated a crucial 60-run stand, but Guptill trod on his stumps and swiveled onto his leg stump. In no time, New Zealand lost the experienced Ross Taylor and Tom Latham and they were reduced to 80/4.
Despite losing three crucial wickets, skipper Williamson remained unperturbed and kept the scoreboard ticking. He built much-needed partnerships with Jimmy Neesham (23) and Colin de Grandhomme (60 off 47). De Grandhomme especially took pressure off his skipper with a fantastic half-century, even as South Africa failed to take their chances on the field.
With eight needed off the final over, a six brought up Williamson’s hundred, and he went on to hit the winning runs on the third ball of the over.