South Africa beat New Zealand by five wickets with only two balls to spare in the first of six one-day cricket internationals at Eden Park on Friday.
Bowling after winning the toss, South Africa held New Zealand to 225-8 and reached 226-5 to post its 16th win from the last 18 matches between the teams.
An 86-run opening partnership between Herschelle Gibbs and captain Graeme Smith set South Africa on the road to an expected easy win. But it was eventually forced to rely on a cool unbeaten innings of 44 from Boeta Dippenaar to reach its target.
Smith made 72 and Gibbs 43 to start the run chase at a steady pace and there was no sign when the openers were together that South Africa would cut things so fine.
The tourists faltered slightly when they lost two wickets within three balls near the middle of its innings and only Dippenaar kept the scoreboard turning over near the end.
Half centuries by Scott Styris and Chris Cairns, who shared a 91-run fifth-wicket partnership, lifted New Zealand to a defensible total after it had been sent in on a flat and lifeless pitch.
Styris top-scored with 60 from 81 balls and Cairns made 58 to revive New Zealand which had been struggling at 55-3 and 79-4.
Stephen Fleming and newcomer Michael Papps put on 44 for the first wicket but New Zealand lost 3-11 and was suddenly struggling to set South Africa a demanding total.
The slow nature of the wicket and its variable bounce forced batsmen to be watchful and to rely on improvised stroke play. Styris managed that effectively, using sweeps and deflections to score in singles and taking six fours and a six from his more weighted shots.
Cairns, who was also forceful, hit five fours and a six in a timely return to form.
New Zealand's bowlers were unable to exert any pressure over South Africa when Smith and Gibbs were together. The South African captain again tapped a vein of consistent form, reaching the second half century of the match from 74 balls.
He played a patient innings, taking his 72 runs from a total 91 balls with eight fours while Gibbs was also cautious, scoring 43 from 57 deliveries with only four boundaries.
Gibbs was first out in the 20th over and South Africa briefly lost its momentum when Smith was out with the total 149-2 and Jacques Kallas at the same score. Kallas was adjudged lbw to a delivery from left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori which appeared to strike the bat.
Dippenaar and Jacques Rudolph took time to revive the pace of the innings but eventually put on 60 for the fifth wicket to re-establish South African control.
The loss of Rudolph in the 46th over and Mark Boucher in the 48th interrupted South Africa's progress to victory and forced it to wait until the fourth ball of the final over for the winning runs.
Without Dippenaar, who took his 44 runs from 49 balls, it might have fallen short of its target.
The series now moves to Christchurch for the second match on Tuesday.Reuse content