The White Ferns missed their chance to seal a Twenty20 series victory over South Africa, with the visitors pulling off a thrilling last-gasp chase at the Basin Reserve yesterday.
Needing 35 runs from the last three overs, South Africa were blasted home with a ball to spare thanks to powerful all-rounder Chloe Tryon, who smacked an unbeaten 34 off 16 balls — including 26 off the last nine — to peg the series back to 2-1 with two games remaining.
Sophie Devine, who had earlier been the White Ferns' star with the bat, failed to deliver with the ball, with her penultimate over — the 18th — going for 14 runs, before she was unable to defend 11 runs in the final over, with Tryon smoking the skipper over mid-wicket for six.
Tryon's three sixes in the last three overs provided the powerful finish South Africa needed in their chase of 154 for victory, after their early batters had made contributions but not at any great speed.
Lizelle Lee (18 from 18), Marizanne Kapp (20 from 15) and Mignon du Preez (20 from 15) weren't quite able to keep South Africa in touch with the required run rate, while skipper Dane van Niekerk (42 from 40) provided handy runs but left plenty of work for the middle order.
Their chase had been made difficult thanks to Devine, who continued her stellar batting form with a third consecutive 50, making her highest international T20 score with a brilliant 77 from 57 balls.
She added 60 for the second wicket with Suzie Bates, who made 23 from 18 before being unluckily run out by a deflection at the non-striker's end. But with the rest of her team unable to do anything more than put Devine back on strike — Devine hit 11 boundaries to everyone else's eight — it was almost a one-woman show, as the 30-year-old scored over half New Zealand's runs.
Just when a maiden century looked possible, Devine was removed with three overs to go by a wild full toss from spinner Sune Luus, as the White Ferns scrapped their way to 153-5.
In response, Amelia Kerr was the Ferns' standout bowler with 1-17 from her four overs, while sister Jess' medium pacers were also restrictive with figures of 0-14 from three on her debut. Seamer Holly Huddleston claimed two wickets, including van Niekerk's, and with one ball left in her over, South Africa needed 17 runs from seven balls.
However, Tryon hit Huddleston's final delivery for six, and despite having struggled in the previous over, Devine backed herself to bowl the decisive deliveries, only to watch on as Tryon and Luus got South Africa home.