Mount Maunganui, New Zealand : Captain A.B. de Villiers top-scored with an unbeaten 89 as South Africa completed a six-wicket win over New Zealand in a limited-overs cricket international Tuesday to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Earlier, Luke Ronchi was New Zealand's last man out for 99 after stalling a middle-order collapse and leading New Zealand to 230 in 45.1 overs. South Africa made 236-4 in reply.
Ronchi reached his highest score in 24 one-day appearances and shared a 74-run last-wicket partnership with Trent Boult (21 not out) which allowed New Zealand to reach a competitive total after it lost three wickets on 68.
South Africa then calmly chased down New Zealand's total with 11 balls to spare and with de Villiers and J.P. Duminy (58 not out) sharing a 139-run partnership.
Hashim Amla steadied the South African innings early by batting 25 overs for 38 runs. Although Boult cheaply removed Quinton de Kock (9) and Faf du Plessis (8) and South Africa's asking rate briefly topped six per over, de Villiers and Duminy expertly paced the reply.
They batted the last 25.1 overs and were able jointly to overcome a sound bowling and sharp fielding performance by New Zealand. "We felt pretty good," de Villiers said. "A funny kind of wicket, one of those where I didn't personally feel I was in at any stage which maybe played into my hands and forced me to be a bit more conservative. Fortunately I was there at the end and I was able to see it through with J.P.
The match launched both team's preparations for the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia in February and March of next year. It was the first of 17 one-day internationals New Zealand will play over the next five months, ahead of their opening World Cup game, and, for South Africa, began consecutive series of three and five matches against the World Cup co-hosts.
The second match of the series is at the same venue on Friday. New Zealand batted with unusual urgency after losing the toss and being sent in. The Bay Oval in this North Island resort city was hosting a one-day international for the first time -- becoming New Zealand's 13th international venue -- and the properties of its pitch were a mystery to both teams.
Ronchi, who blasted 11 fours and three sixes in an 83-ball innings, was the only batsman who found the pace of the pitch ideal for stroke-making. He flourished in the late overs of New Zealand's innings against South Africa's quicks and especially against secondary bowlers such as Ryan McLaren and Duminy.
Morne Morkel removed McCullum and dangerous allrounder Corey Anderson with consecutive deliveries in the 16th over as New Zealand tumbled from 68-2 to 68-5. At that stage the hosts looked unlikely to post a competitive total but Ronchi led an effective counter-attack.
Wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock took five catches and effected a stumping to dismiss Latham, providing outstanding support to South Africa's world class bowling attack.
New Zealand saw the return of Daniel Vettori to the one-day side for his 277th match and after an absence of more than a year. Vettori bowled 10 overs for 43 runs and moved well in the field, showing no signs of recent back and ankle injuries.
New Zealand was missing its two leading batsmen, Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson who are injured, although Williamson may return on Friday. "It was a good hit out," McCullum said. "It was pretty close, which the scoreboard probably doesn't reflect."