Trent Boult: Black Caps dealt stark reminder of Proteas' quality in T20 thumping
Trent Boult hardly needed a reminder just how good this Proteas team is but he knew that was exactly what his team had just received.
South Africa made an emphatic statement to start their tour of New Zealand in Auckland on Friday night, powering to a 78-run victory in a standalone Twenty20 International at Eden Park.
Highlighted by a superb five-wicket haul to leg-spinner Imran Tahir, the world's top-ranked T20 and one-day bowler, the clinical performance must have also erased some of the pain from a heart-breaking loss at the same venue in the semifinals of the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
Tahir's expert display not only led his side to victory, it somehow trumped an earlier display from Boult that evoked similar superlatives.
The left-armer swing merchant took 2-8 from four masterful overs, a dropped catch unable to prevent him returning the second-best figures by a New Zealand player in a T20 international.
After being comfortably his team's best on the night and falling short only of the 3-6 taken by Daniel Vettori against Bangladesh in Hamilton in 2010, Boult could only tip his cap to the high-flying Proteas.
"We were off the mark and outplayed by a pretty good side," he said.
"We've played some good cricket this summer. We wanted to continue that reign of being unbeaten ... if we didn't know what a class side they were, we quickly found out tonight.
"They're stacked with quality players and can't be taken lightly."
A target of 187, set-up by classy opener Hashim Amla (62 off 43) and in-form skipper Faf du Plessis (36 from 25), on a good batting wicket was well within reach of a powerful New Zealand batting unit.
But the Black Caps chase was hardly allowed to get out of second gear as the seamers strangled and knocked the top off, opening the door for Tahir to rip through the middle and lower order with career best figures of 5-24.
Newcomer Tom Bruce did his best to keep hope alive for the hosts, hitting three fours and two sixes to make 33 off 27 at No 4 before he went down swinging to Tahir.
Otherwise, though, it was a brittle batting display as New Zealand were all out for 107 to put the momentum firmly with South Africa heading into the first of five ODIs in Hamilton on Sunday.
Boult acknowledged his team's shortcomings but tried to look ahead in a positive light.
"I didn't think anyone bowled that badly tonight and they played some good shots, they're allowed to do that.
"It kicks their tour off nicely [but] it's a quick turnaround, a couple of nights and then we are back out onto Seddon Park.
"I'm sure they're relatively happy but again the ODI format is going well for us. Guys are contributing across all facets and we played nicely there a couple of weeks ago [against Australia] so it's about doing it again."
Following a dominant showing to start their time in New Zealand, the same mindset applied for the Proteas, the new world No 1 in the one-day format.
Du Plessis said it was important they had put a "peg in the ground" about what they were here to achieve.
The South African skipper lavished praise on Tahir but added the efforts of his seam bowling unit, with Andile Phelukwayo (3-19 off three) and Chris Morris (2-10 off three) the standouts, were also crucial.
"I've said it before, [Tahir] is a big reason why we have had the success we had over the last 10 months.
"He's become so consistent and as a captain that is a massive weapon. Even if teams get off to really good start know chances of him coming on and doing really well is very high.
"But tonight the seamers did enough damage up front with three wicket in the first six, it was tough for them to get through that."