Herschelle Gibbs put in a batting master class to score a century that secured the ODI series against New Zealand.
Gibbs was at his dismissive best, clobbering the Black Capsâ€™ bowlers to all areas of Newlands with consummate ease. His 119 runs came off just 100 balls and featured seven sixes and 10 fours.
The home town kid survived a early leg before appeal that looked out for all money, but never allowed Daniel Vettoriâ€™s side another opportunity until he had inflicted the damage which saw his side cruise to yet another home series victory, by five wickets. Theyâ€™ve last lost an ODI series on home soil in 2001, and despite a flurry of wickets after Graeme Smith fell, never looked in any danger of surrendering that phenomenal record.
If Gibbs was the embodiment of class and fluency, his captain was the embodiment of desperation. Smith struggled to find the middle of his willow and his timing was atrocious. Yet he battled to 51 and provided the anchor that his cavalier partner needed.
They shared a 173-run opening partnership but South Africa wobbled ever so slightly when they lost four wickets for 18 runs. But Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher brought some stability to down the Black Caps and end their two month misery.
New Zealand had earlier struggled to 238/8 but would have felt confident of defending that total on a difficult wicket.
There were good contributions from Matt Sinclair, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram but ultimately a poor start and barren middle period thwarted their chances of posting anything in excess of 250.
Dale Steyn, in the side for Albie Morkel, struck twice in his first spell, to peg back the tourists. The Proteas were disciplined on a pitch that offered significant lateral movement. Testament to this was the first ball of the innings from Shaun Pollock that jagged back sharply at Brendon McCullum. The veteran seamer, who conceded just 26 runs in his 10 overs, proved to be the perfect foil for Steyn who capitalised on the pressure Pollock created.
Steyn removed McCullum and destroyed Lou Vincent’s stumps with a smoking yorker reducing the Black Caps to 27-2. Styris and Jamie How sought to consolidate, but the latter was nowhere near the level of fluency he exhibited in the first two matches. He was trapped leg before by Charl Langeveldt and Ross Taylor continued his woeful form, cutting a wide delivery onto his stumps.
Styris was resolute but conservative for his 60 before being dismissed by one of the best catches you’ll see this season – a diving effort by Andre Nel at deep mid-wicket.
Ultimately it was Sinclair’s 73 that got New Zealand to a defendable total. The right hander was severe on anything off line and his 56-run partnership with Jacob Oram (34) guided them to a score that many thought would be difficult to surpass.
But Gibbs’ performance spat in the face of those predictions. When his awful his painful to watch. But when he is in the mood he was in today, not many batsmen in the world can match him for pure entertainment value.
By Ryan Vrede
New Zealand 238-8 (50 overs)
Matt Sinclair 73, Scott Styris 60, Charl Langeveldt 2-46, Dale Steyn 2-50
South Africa 242/5 (45.2 overs)
Herschelle Gibbs 119, Graeme Smith 51, Jacques Kallis 30, Mark Boucher 26*, Daniel Vettori 3-33
South Africa win the match by five wickets and the series 2-1.
Click here for full score card.