Jesse Ryder won't be left to carry the heat for New Zealand's T20 flop against South Africa on Wednesday night.

There was the distinct sound of wagons circling yesterday as Ryder's Wellington teammate James Franklin issued a strong defence of the lefthander, who was the target of fierce criticism as South Africa, sagging on the ropes, scrapped their way to an improbable three-run win at Eden Park, and the T20 rubber 2-1.

Needing 17 runs from the last four overs, with six wickets in hand, it seemed a doddle. Indeed the game could have been won in singles.

However New Zealand, having done everything right until then, punctured badly on the home straight to finish on 162 for seven.


Ryder hit 52 off 42 balls in his comeback match after missing New Zealand's last eight internationals.

But it was his dawdling finish - his last four runs took 13 deliveries - allied to poor shot selection on his dismissal, which had him stuck in a firestorm of criticism yesterday.

Leading the way was former New Zealand batsman Craig McMillan, who insisted "this defeat falls squarely on his shoulders and he has to wear it".

However Franklin wouldn't have a bar of it.

"Not at all. It's a group effort. He played brilliantly and it's pretty unfair to pinpoint it on him," Franklin said. "We had it in the bag with five overs to go and let it slip as a group.

"There were other guys who came in after him who had the chance to win the game and none of us did that."

And Franklin also launched a vigorous defence of New Zealand's ability to cope in pressure situations.

"I think it's fine," he said. "It just wasn't our day, and you've got to take your hat off to the South African bowlers.

"It was one instance and I think we are all making a mountain out of a molehill. It was disappointing to lose the game but that's gone and we've got to worry about Saturday now."

However the numbers don't lie and certainly Ryder seemed to lose his way as his half-century approached.

He must take a large chunk of responsibility, even though he had done most to push New Zealand to the brink of victory. But if the blame game is to be played, Franklin is right: others failed to deliver.

Tomorrow is the opening ODI game at Westpac Stadium, and South African captain AB de Villiers was quick to grab the momentum shift for his team.

"No doubt we have the momentum in our hands at the moment," de Villiers said.

"It's a whole new format, a different ball game and they've got the opportunity to come back, and we don't want that. We've got to make sure we grind them down."

Before Wednesday night's game, acting captain Brendon McCullum had talked of its importance in the greater scheme of things.

That makes a win tomorrow night essential for New Zealand to stop South Africa's roll. Their three key figures, test captain Graeme Smith, senior fast bowler Dale Steyn and great allrounder Jacques Kallis, all return for the ODI series.

New Zealand need to move on smartly. Franklin reckoned they had.

"We've buried it. With such a short turnaround to the first ODI it's important as a group that we move on and focus on Saturday."