South Africa hit 119 runs in the final Powerplay to set New Zealand a stiff target in their ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 clash in Pune.
A 200-run second-wicket stand between centurions Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen set the base for yet another 300-plus total for South Africa. The Proteas were also boosted by a late charge from David Miller (53).
Tidy work from New Zealand ensured that South Africa had to work for their runs in Pune. And skipper Temba Bavuma led the way with a number of confident strokes, especially through the cover region.
However, Bavuma was outdone by Trent Boult. The experienced seamer got the South Africa captain to drive a delivery which landed at an uncomfortable length and induced a thick edge that went through to first slip.
Rassie van der Dussen then came together with Quinton de Kock to take forward the Proteas batting effort. They kept the scoring rate in the higher ranges of four till the 20-over mark, with a number of aggressive shots.
De Kock reached his half-century, his fourth fifty-plus score of the tournament, in the 21st over.
There were concerned faces in the New Zealand camp, who already have a number of injuries in their numbers after Matt Henry walked back into the pavilion without finishing his sixth over. The pacer had pulled a hamstring after the third ball of the 27th over, and the remaining deliveries were completed by James Neesham.
After going at a steady pace for the majority of innings, De Kock and van der Dussen picked pace after the 30-over mark. They added 39 runs off the next five overs. De Kock then brought up his fourth Cricket World Cup hundred with a maximum off Neesham in the 36th over.
The batters were already dictating the terms of play and New Zealand needed a quick breakthrough to pull things back. The Black Caps finally had their way in the 40th over, when Southee accounted for de Kock.
However, this brought the dangerous David Miller onto the crease. Along with van der Dussen, he added a quickfire 78 for the third wicket.
South Africa hit a total of nine sixes in the final Powerplay.
Earlier, Tom Latham flipped the coin and decided to field. Tim Southee returned to the lineup in place of Lockie Ferguson, who was sidelined with an Achilles concern.
Temba Bavuma said that they would've batted first anyhow. He expressed that the wicket was on the drier side and that the ball might skid in the evening. Kagiso Rabada came in for Tabraiz Shamsi after he missed the Proteas' recent match against Pakistan with a back problem.
Kane Williamson was in contention to return from his thumb injury to take on the Proteas, but the Black Caps avoided taking that call.
Two of the early pacesetters at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 meet, with the winner set to move a step closer to locking in a semi-final berth with another victory here.
South Africa are currently sitting second in the standings, one spot ahead of New Zealand, with five wins mostly built on devastating displays when setting a lofty target in four of those triumphs.
The Proteas have been shakier when chasing a target, falling 38 runs short of the 246 that Netherlands set for them for what turned into their only defeat at the tournament so far, and later staggering to the line for a less-than-convincing one-wicket victory against Pakistan.
New Zealand will be out to get their Cricket World Cup campaign back on track after four initial victories were followed by back-to-back losses to India and Australia.
A third consecutive loss would leave the Black Caps well within reach of the chasing pack led by Pakistan and Afghanistan.
New Zealand hold a 6-2 advantage over South Africa at past ICC Men's Cricket World Cups and are currently on a streak of five consecutive wins in head-to-head encounters at the tournament.
The most famous of these Kiwi triumphs came in the 2015 semi-final when New Zealand won by 4 wickets with 1 ball remaining as the D/L method was required.
Another semi-final clash would be on the cards if South Africa (second) and New Zealand (third) hold onto their current positions in the standings.
The Black Caps also won by four wickets then the two sides last met in an ODI though that was curiously four years ago at the Cricket World Cup in 2019.