New Zealand beats South Africa in 2nd ODI, levels series

New Zealand's Ross Taylor celebrates scoring a century during their one day cricket international against South Africa at Hagley Oval, Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) Ross Taylor set a national record for most centuries in one-day international cricket with an unbeaten 102 that guided New Zealand to a tense, series-leveling six-run win over South Africa on Wednesday.

Taylor reached his 17th one-day international century from the last ball of the New Zealand innings to overtake Nathan Astle (16) as New Zealand’s leading century-maker in ODIs and on the way became the fourth Kiwi to surpass 6,000 runs in the format.

The combination of those two records, along with Taylor’s 32 half centuries and his average of 43.11, clearly establishes the 32-year-old right hander as New Zealand’s best-ever batsman in the one-day game.

His innings, achieved in partnerships of 104 with Kane Williamson (69) and an unbeaten 123 with James Neesham (71 not out) lifted New Zealand to 289-4 after losing the toss on a slow wicket at Hagley Oval in the second ODI.

South Africa kept pace with the required run-rate for much of its reply but the dismissal of A.B. de Villiers for 45 by Trent Boult in the 39th over, which left the Proteas 199-6, dimmed their hopes of victory. The Proteas finished 283-9.

Allrounder Dwaine Pretorius slammed 50 from 27 balls near the end to keep the run chase alive but was out the the last ball of the 49th over and with his departure, South Africa’s hopes faded.

New Zealand’s death bowlers, Trent Boult and Tim Southee, lost their line and length briefly under an assault from Pretorius, who hit a six and a four from Boult from the first two balls of the 46th over, to leave South Africa needing 40 runs for victory.

But both recovered well and their last two overs were critical to the win. Boult allowed only five runs from the 49th over, dismissing Pretorius with the last ball, and Southee bowled four dot balls to start the 50th over from which South Africa needed 15 runs, snuffing out the Proteas’ challenge.

Quinton de Kock again set up the South African run chase with a half century at the top of the order. He made 57 from 65 balls, following on from his 69 in the first match at Hamilton which provided the foundation of South Africa’s four-wicket win.

Andile Phehlukwayo took boundaries from the last two balls of the innings Wednesday to again finish 29 not out.

”It was good to be on the right side of this one,” New Zealand captain Williamson said. ”That’s one tight game each.

”Wins against the best team in the world aren’t going to come easy and I think to get to a competitive total off the back of Ross’s brilliant hundred was a brilliant effort. From that point we were able to put them under pressure for a long period of time.”

Taylor’s innings on a troublesome pitch was a match-winner. He hit a boundary from the last ball of the innings to post his record-breaking century, holding his nerve after being dropped on 96 one ball earlier.

Taylor’s partnership with Williamson set the foundation for the innings and his stand with Neesham – the best for New Zealand’s fifth wicket against South Africa in ODIs – made the total competitive.

”I thought it was a great game of cricket,” de Villiers said. ”Credit to New Zealand, they posted a great score on that wicket.

”I wasn’t too unhappy with the bowling performance, it was more about the bat. There were too many soft dismissals and not enough good partnerships and the partnerships we did get going we didn’t extend.”

The loss ended South Africa’s ODI winning streak 12, which equals its best-ever ODI winning streak set in 2005.