Tauranga, Feb 2: New Zealand captain Sophie Devine scored an unbeaten 54 as New Zealand chased down 117 with 46 balls to spare against South Africa in the first T20I here on Sunday.
The hosts looked unruffled in the chase, starting off strongly as openers Rachel Priest and Devine took on the South African bowlers right from the first over. Hitting boundaries at regular intervals, they maintained the pressure with their aggressive batting and smart running between the wickets. The opening stand of 75 in eight overs set the tone for the hosts. Tumi Sekhukhune provided the Proteas women with the first breakthrough when, dismissing Priest for 37.
However, with just 42 runs required, New Zealand refused to slow down at that point. Devine, who was at her destructive best, was then joined by Suzie Bates, who played her part in rotating the strike. The White Ferns skipper soon brought up her 11th T20I half-century in just 27 balls, with a four on the last ball of the 10th over. She remained unbeaten along with Bates, who hit the winning runs in the 13th over to hand New Zealand a big victory, an ICC report said. Devine had earlier won the toss, putting South Africa in to bat.
While the visitors got off to a steady start, putting up 36 runs in five overs, they slowed down thereafter. Opener Lizelle Lee was caught behind off Leigh Kasperek for 17. Her partner Laura Wolvaardt then paired with Nadine de Klerk to share a 36-run stand, which was broken by Amelia Kerr in the 12th over. The Proteas then stumbled once again when they lost Wolvaardt (33) and skipper Chloe Tyron (0) on back-to-back deliveries. At 88/4 in 15 overs, South Africa slipped further.
New Zealand picked up three more wickets, strangling the scoring rate at the death. The last five batters failed to cross 20, with three of them registering only single-digit scores. South Africa finished on an under-par 116/7. Kasperek and Kerr picked up two wickets each, while Jensen got the lone scalp of Wolvaardt. Tyron and Mignon du Preez were both run-out. New Zealand now lead the five-match series 1-0 and will play the second T20I on February 6 in Hamilton. Brief score: South Africa - 116/7 New Zealand - 117/1. (UNI)