AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Outstanding bowling performances by Imran Tahir, Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo led South Africa to a six-wicket win over New Zealand in the fifth one-day cricket international on Saturday and a 3-2 win in the five-match series.
Rabada took 3-25, Phehlukwayo 2-35 and Tahir 2-14 from 10 overs — the fifth-most economical bowling performance for South Africa in ODIs — as the Proteas dismissed New Zealand for 149 in 41.1 overs as they bowled first after winning the toss.
The total was New Zealand's lowest in the first innings of a one-day international against South Africa and appeared to make an anti-climax of the deciding match of a cliff-hanging series in which South Africa had won the first and third matches and New Zealand the second and fourth.
But the total proved more difficult than it appeared on a drop-in pitch at Eden Park which rewarded short-pitched bowling with sharp and unpredictable bounce.
Faf du Plessis made 51 not out — reaching his 26th ODI half-century with a boundary from the final ball — and David Miller made 45 not out as South Africa kept control of a challenging run chase to reach their winning target with 17.4 overs to spare.
The win ended New Zealand's run of eight victories in one-day series at home.
At 48-3 and with Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and J.P. Duminy back in the pavilion the match and series were still in the balance. But limited overs captain de Villiers (22) advanced South Africa's interests in a 40-run partnership with du Plessis for the fourth wicket and test captain du Plessis played a vital anchor role to see his team home.
He reached his half century from 90 balls and shared an unbroken 62-run partnership with Miller for the fifth wicket.
The match was really won when de Villiers called correctly at the toss for the fifth time in the series and sent New Zealand in and when his bowlers responded with superb performances which were both restrictive and penetrating.
"We've won quite a few tosses in this series which made it a little bit easier," de Villiers said. "But it doesn't very often happen that a series goes to to 2-2 so it was a terrific one-day series and quite tight.
"We got the upper hand early on on today. Conditions early on were tough to assess and we bowled quite well in that period and asked the right questions."
Rabada and Phehlukwayo combined to wreck New Zealand's top order, sharing five wickets as the home team slumped to 87-6, then Tahir allowed de Villiers to apply the squeeze in the middle overs and also took two late wickets.
"The ball was getting up, the New Zealanders also got the ball to get up and it was a tough ball to play," Rabada said. "We utilized it well."