Birmingham, June 20 (IANS) New Zealand captain Kane Williamson led from the front and showed nerves of steel with a masterful unbeaten hundred as he guided his team to a four-wicket win over South Africa in a thrilling World Cup clash here on Wednesday.
Williamson remained not out on 106 off 138 balls, his innings decorated with nine fours and a six, as the Kiwis saw off stiff resistance from the Proteas to win with three balls to spare.
Colin de Grandhomme supported Williamson well with a gutsy 47-ball 60 which was studded with five fours and two sixes.
The pair shared a match-winning 91-run stand for the sixth wicket.For South Africa, Chris Morris (3/49) was the best bowler.
New Zealand moved to the top of the table with the win, having nine points from five matches and remaining unbeaten.
South Africa, meanwhile, succumbed to their fourth loss in six games, having three points and being in eighth position in the 10-team table.
Chasing 242 for victory, the Black Caps were reduced 80/4 after Colin Munro (9), Ross Taylor (1), Martin Guptill (35) and Tom Latham (1) failed to get going.
Munro was caught and bowled by Kagiso Rabada (1/42) while Guptill, who looked good, could not carry on as he was hit wicket off Andile Phehlukwayo (1/73).
Taylor was caught behind by de Kock off Morris and Latham was dismissed in similar fashion. But with Williamson holding up one end, James Neesham (23) shared a crucial 57-run stand with his captain to steady to ship.
After Morris broke the partnership sending Neesham back in the hut, de Grandhomme joined the rock-solid Williamson in the middle with the game still in the balance.
The big moment of the match came in the 38th over when Williamson, batting on 76, bottom edged Imran Tahir to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. South Africa did not appeal but replays showed the Kiwi skipper had nicked it with stump microphone also picking up the sound of the ball kissing the bat.
In the next over, de Grandhomme walloped Rabada for a six over square leg as South Africa missed another golden chance to run Williamson out.
There was drama in the 44th over when Williamson was dropped by Lungi Ngidi off Andile Phehlukwayo only for umpire Nigel Llong to call the beamer a no ball. de Grandhomme brought up his 52 in 39 balls but just when he and Williamson seemed to settle the issue, Ngidi had de Grandhomme caught at long-off by du Plessis in the 48th over with 14 needed off 11.
Willamson showed his class to guide Ngidi's last ball fine of short third man for four, his first boundary after 38 balls.
With eight needed in the final over, Mitchell Santner took a single off the first ball of Phehlukwayo and then it was Williamson show as he hit a six to bring up his ton and tie the game. In the next ball, the ice-cool Williamson dabbed down to third man for a four to win it for his team.
Earlier, a disciplined bowling display helped New Zealand restrict South Africa to a modest 241/6 after the match was reduced to 49 overs per side, opener Hashim Amla (55) and Rassie van der Dussen (67 not out) cracked half-centuries to lend some respectability to the South Africa total.
Kiwi pacer Lockie Ferguson was the pick of the bowlers, returning with figures of 3/59 from his 10 overs. He got support from Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner, who bagged a wicket each.
It was der Dussen's fireworks towards the final moments of the innings which propelled South Africa to a fighting total. His 64-ball knock was laced with two boundaries and three sixes. Amla took 83 balls for his 55, hitting four boundaries in the process.
Put into bat, South Africa were off to a poor start as they lost opener Quinton de Kock (5) cheaply in the second over, castled by Boult while attempting an on-drive. Amla and skipper Faf du Plessis (23) then shared a 50-run partnership for the second wicket.However, just when the partnership seemed developing, Ferguson came with the breakthrough, dismissing du PLessis to reduce South Africa to 59/2.
Aiden Markram (38) then joined Amla and the two added 52 runs for the third wicket before Santner packed back the latter in the 28th over after a good length delivery turned sharply to dislodge Amla's off-stump, leaving the Proteas at 111/3.
Twenty-five runs later, de Grandhomme joined the party as he accounted for the wicket of Makram in the 33rd over. der Dussen and David Miller (36) then stabilised the damage as their slow 72-run stand took South Africa past the 200-run mark in the 45th over.
While trying to shift gears, Miller handed a catch to Boult off Ferguson, leaving his team at 208/5. South Africa then lost incoming batsman Andile Phehlukwayo for a duck but some big-hitting by der Dussen towards the end helped the Proteas post a decent score.
Brief scores: South Africa 241/6 in 49 overs (der Dussen 67 not out, Hashim Amla 55; Lockie Ferguson 3/59) vs New Zealand 245/6 in 48.3 overs (Kane Williamson 106 not out, Colin de Grandhomme 60; Chris Morris 3/49)