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De Lange holds his nerve

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Marchant de Lange

Marchant de Lange snares Nathan McCullum, the first of two wickets in the final over when he defended seven despite conceding a free-hit

An extraordinary final over from seamer Marchant de Lange earned South Africa a thrilling three-run win over New Zealand at Auckland's Eden Park, handing them the Twenty20 series 2-1.

Jesse Ryder’s fifty had put the Black Caps on course to overhaul 165 for seven, but he fell with eight needed from seven balls.

That became seven from the last over, in which de Lange’s first five deliveries yielded two wickets and one run. However, he then overstepped, giving Tim Southee the chance to win the game with a free-hit four, but made amends with a dot ball.

Having been inserted, South Africa picked up early boundaries through Hashim Amla and Richard Levi. But the latter, who hit the fastest T20 international ton in Sunday’s series-levelling win, and Albie Morkel were soon caught on the leg side off James Franklin and Southee respectively.

Martin Guptill dropped Amla on 30, but it mattered little as Doug Bracewell had him caught behind three runs later. JP Duminy and AB de Villiers upped the ante with a swift 62-run stand until Rob Nicol collected the former's return drive and smartly ran out his partner for 38.

In his next over, the off-spinner bowled de Villiers for 29 and trapped Justin Ontong in front but, after Guptill held a stunner at cover to give Southee Johan Botha’s wicket, Wayne Parnell’s unbeaten 22 carried the Proteas to a competitive score.

Guptil and Nicol set off like a train and had 65 on the board when the latter, dropped two balls earlier by Parnell, top-edged Morne Morkel to fine-leg on 33 from the last delivery of the powerplay.

Botha struck in the next over when Guptill, on 29, holed out to long-off, but fit-again Ryder and Brendon McCullum kept New Zealand on course. Even when Robin Peterson had McCullum caught behind and Kane Williamson skied Morne Morkel to midwicket, Ryder was in control.

The powerful left-hander’s half-century arrived from 37 balls shortly before Ontong got nowhere near a towering chance to send him back. However, Ryder scooped Botha to short fine-leg on 52 and de Lange decisively had Nathan McCullum and Bracewell caught, behind and at point respectively, for two-ball ducks.

The sides meet again in Wellington on Saturday for the first of three one-day internationals, ahead of a trio of Tests.