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Albie Morkel hit five sixes, three of them in one Tim Southee over that cost 21 runs, to make the decisive move for the Proteas in their 13-runs victory over New Zealand in their opening ICC World T20 Super 8 match at the Kensington Oval on Thursday. It is a victory that puts the Proteas at the top of Group E on net run rate, ahead of England who beat Pakistan by five wickets with three balls to spare in the day's other contest (read more). Group F starts on Friday with Australia taking on India and hosts West Indies coming up against Sri Lanka.
The result confirms that the Proteas have got their game on an upward curve after a slow start and they will have been particularly pleased with the improvement shown in the final 5 overs of both innings.
Morkel and AB de Villiers were able to build on a solid start in which wickets were conserved to share a partnership of 72 in 6.2 overs. It enabled the Proteas to score 62 runs in their last 5 overs and put a competitive total of 170 on the board.
The other half of the equation was the much improved bowling performance at the death which saw only 48 runs conceded in the last five overs. New Zealand had, in fact, been a fraction ahead at the 15 overs mark with 109/5 on the board compared to the 108/3 that the Proteas had managed at the same stage.
Dale Steyn (2), the two Morkels and Charl Langeveldt shared the five final overs and did such a good job that New Zealand were not really in the game at the start of Albie Morkel's final over with an unlikely 27 runs still needed.
The Proteas made two changes from the two previous matches, giving Herschelle Gibbs and Johan Botha their first runs of the tournament at the expense of Loots Bosman and Roelof van der Merwe, and both players turned in excellent performances. New Zealand came into the game unchanged from their last match against Zimbabwe.
South Africa got off to a good start with Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis sharing an opening partnership of 40 runs at better than 8 an over before the former fell caught on the leg side boundary on a poor ball he could have deposited anywhere. Kallis contributed 31 to the Protean cause before falling to a blinder at third man.Â Batting at No. 3, Gibbs helped set up the Morkel-De Villiers onslaught in a key partnership of 42 for the third wicket with De Villiers.
Albie Morkel came in a little earlier than expected, in the 14th over at the fall of Gibbs' wicket with the score of 97. His whirlwind knock of 40 from 18 balls was well supported by De Villiers, who chipped in with an unbeaten 47 from 39 deliveries.
In reply, New Zealand lost the crucial wicket of the dangerous Brendon McCullum in the opening over of the innings, caughtÂ sensationally by Gibbs at cover.Â Two more catches came the veteran's way and they were also important wickets in the persons of Ross Taylor and Scott Styris.
Jesse Ryder made sure that the Blackcaps stayed in touch with the scoring rate with a brisk innings of 33 at the top of the order, and though all the other batsmen also got starts, only Nathan McCullum coming in at no.8 got past the 20 run mark.Â Botha took a wicket in each of his first two overs and at one stage had figures of 2/9. He removed Ryder and Martin Guptill (18) in the 8th and 10th over respectively to derail the Kiwi chase, before the fast bowlers got into the action and were able to do a good job of restricting the batsmen by picking up regular wickets.
Captain Graeme Smith said afterwards he was pleased with the upwards momentum of his side in which the Proteas improved by 200 percent against Afghanistan on their performance against India and by a lesser amount against the Kiwis.Â "If we can keep lifting our performance with each game that we play, then we will be heading in the right direction for the remainder of the tournament," he commented.
The Proteas' next match is against England, also at Kensington Oval, on Saturday, while New Zealand are in action earlier the same day in a do-or-die encounter with Pakistan, after both sides lost their opening gamesÂ (read more).
The Proteas were fined 10 percent of their match fees (the captain 20 percent) for being an over behind on their over rate. Captain Smith could be in line for a one-match suspension if the Proteas infringe the same clause of the ICC Code of Conduct two more times during the next 12 months.
South Africa 170/4 (20 overs, 8.5rpo)
De Villiers 47* (39) Â Â Â Â Oram 1-22
A Morkel 40 (18) Â Â Â Â Â Â N McCullum 1-35
New Zealand 157/7 (20 overs, 7.8rpo)
Ryder 33 (28) Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Botha 2-23
N McCullum 26* (17) Â Â M Morkel 2-27
Man of the Match: Albie Morkel
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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