Hamilton: Captain AB de Villiers calmly guided his side to a tense four-wicket victory over New Zealand with one ball to spare in a rain-affected first One-day International (ODI) at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Sunday.
De Villiers scored 37 not out and ensured number eight batsman Andile Phehlukwayo (29) kept a cool head as the pair put on 54 runs to overwhelm the 208-run victory target and earn a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
The visitors, who had looked to be cruising to victory at 117 for one with 14 overs remaining, lost four wickets in 14 balls to slump to 126 for five before Chris Morris helped his captain to a 30-run partnership.
Morris, however, fell with still plenty of work to do on a pitch that had been difficult to score from throughout the entire game.
South Africa needed 22 runs from the final two overs and scored 10 from Trent Boult in the penultimate over which included a six from Phehlukwayo, who then repeated the dose against Tim Southee in the final over.
De Villiers then belted Southee for four off the penultimate ball to clinch the victory.
New Zealand made 207 for seven in their innings after heavy rain over the past three days in Hamilton had forced a delay of more than three hours and reduced the match to 34-overs-a-side.
New Zealand struggled for much of their innings particularly up front against tight bowling from Morris, who took the first four wickets as the hosts slumped to 82 for four in the 16th over.
Kane Williamson managed to notch up his 28th one-day international half century as he took on the mantle of anchoring his side's innings, which he did in scoring 59 of his side's 108 runs before he was bowled by Tabraiz Shamsi.
All-rounders Jimmy Neesham (29) and Mitchell Santner (17) took their side through to 156 for seven, but with less than four overs remaining the hosts looked well short of a competitive target despite the wicket proving to be difficult to score from.
Morris, who had figures of four for 24 from his first five overs, however, was then taken apart by Colin de Grandhomme (34 not out) and Southee (24 not out) in his final two.
De Grandhomme and Southee blasted 51 runs from 23 balls, including smashing 38 runs from Morris's final 12 deliveries to blow out his figures to four for 62 from seven overs.
The second match is at Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Wednesday.
D. Brownlie c Behardien b Morris 31
T. Latham lbw Morris 0
K. Williamson b Shamsi 59
R. Taylor c&b Morris 1
N. Broom c Behardien b Morris 2
J. Neesham c de Kock b Rabada 29
M. Santner c de Kock b Rabada 17
C. de Grandhomme (not out) 34
T. Southee (not out) 24
Extras (b-1, w-9) 10
Total (7 wkts, 34 overs) 207
Fall of wickets: 1-19, 2-69, 3-72, 4-82, 5-108, 6-136, 7-156.
Bowling: K. Rabada 7-1-31-2 (w-3); C. Morris 7-0-62-4 (w-1); A. Phehlukwayo 5-0-28-0 (w-1); I. Tahir 7-0-42-0; T. Shamsi 7-1-39-1; J. Duminy 1-0-4-0.
Q de Kock c Taylor b Boult 69
H. Amla c&b Williamson 35
F. du Plessis lbw Sodhi 14
AB de Villiers (not out) 37
JP Duminy c&b Southee 1
F. Behardien b Southee 0
C. Morris c Boult b Santner 16
A. Phehlukwayo (not out) 29
Extras (b-2, lb-3, w-4) 9
Total (6 wkts, 33.5 overs) 210
Fall of wickets: 1-88, 2-117, 3-125, 4-126, 5-126, 6-156.
Bowling: M.J. Santner 7-0-33-1; T. Boult 7-0-45-1; T. Southee 6.5-0-47-2 (w-2); C. de Grandhomme 4-0-27-0; I. Sodhi 7-0-36-1; K. Williamson 2-0-17-1 (w-1).