Proteas hold their nerve
South Africa kept their composure to defeat New Zealand by one run in an even World Twenty20 contest at Lord's.
Despite posting just 128 for seven in the Group D dead rubber, the Proteas attack kept their discipline on a sluggish surface to negate the effect of Brendon McCullum's half-century.
The worn pitch restricted the boundary count, particularly once the new ball lost its original hardness, and although the Black Caps only lost five wickets, they were stifled by spin in mid-innings.
Injury-hit New Zealand somehow allowed the equation to slip to 36 runs required from the final three overs and, although that was reduced to four off the last ball, Jacob Oram drove to long-on and was run out coming back for an ambitious third.
The final few balls arguably produced more excitement than any other part of a low-scoring contest and the decibel levels were raised when Oram inside-edged the penultimate delivery from teenage fast bowler Wayne Parnell for four.
Left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe played the crucial hand in the contest, conceding just 14 runs in his four overs and snaring Ross Taylor and McCullum, who struck his fifth Twenty20 international fifty in six innings - in vain.
Still without captain Daniel Vettori due to a shoulder injury and now missing Jesse Ryder with groin trouble and James Franklin because of a knee complaint, the Black Caps were given another scare when Taylor pulled up with a hamstring problem during a 57-run stand with McCullum.
It is a worrying development ahead of the Super Eights stage of the competition, which they begin on Thursday against Ireland at Trent Bridge.
On the positive side, their patched-up side produced two stunning run-outs to account for dangerous duo Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers.
Their dynamic fielding was allied to great discipline with the ball in hand as they hustled the Proteas.
Openers Graeme Smith and Kallis made a sound start against an attack missing Franklin and Iain O'Brien, its pace spearheads from previous outings here.
A miscue from Kallis off Kyle Mills flew over point for six in the third over and Smith got stuck into debutant Brendon Diamanti's first over in international cricket.
But the Kiwis seized on a moment of opportunism when captain McCullum intercepted a fierce pull from Smith off Ian Butler, swivelled and hit the stumps at the non-striker's end.
Television replays confirmed Kallis was short of his ground by the narrowest of margins.
New Zealand did not relinquish their grip and when Herschelle Gibbs followed to Scott Styris' medium pace, it sparked a spell of three wickets for two runs across three overs.
And AB de Villiers' attempts to rectify the situation were thwarted by Martin Guptill's bullet throw from long-on, which beat his dash to the non-striker's end and left South Africa 85 for five in the 15th over.
It was only some lusty hitting from left-hander JP Duminy, in fact, which ensured New Zealand faced a target in excess of a run a ball.
Twice he deposited the ball in the Mound Stand in an effort of 29 from 23 deliveries.
But he lost sixth-wicket partner Mark Boucher, who scooped a full toss high to mid-off off the strapping Butler, who finished with figures of 4-0-13-2.