A career-best 83 off 44 balls by Reeza Hendricks was not enough as the Proteas fell to a seven-run defeat to West Indies in the decisive third KFC T20 International (T20I) at the DP World Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The right-hander thumped two sixes and 11 fours in his innings, before becoming one of Alzarri Joseph’s five victims when he fell in the penultimate over as the run-rate began to soar in South Africa’s pursuit of 221.
In the end they finished with 213 for six – short of what would have been another epic chase as they slipped to a 2-1 series defeat.
Just two days earlier, the hosts were involved in a world record chase when they hunted down 259 at Centurion. This time, though, it was not to be despite the heroics of Hendricks, who was aided for a large part of the chase by Rilee Rossouw (42 off 21 balls).
At the start, the Proteas tried to follow the trend of the series where the chasing side had won each of the previous two games, with captain Aiden Markram winning the toss and bowling in a match that saw Adrian Holdstock and Shaun George both make their 50th appearances as standing umpires.
Openers Kyle Mayers (17) and Brandon King (36) provided them with a strong start by putting on 39 in the first 3.2 overs, before Kagiso Rabada (2/50) cleaned up the former and Johnson Charles (0), centurion hero from SuperSport Park, in successive deliveries.
King then helped Nicholas Pooran (41 off 19 balls) add 55 for the next wicket to put West Indies in a strong position of 94 for two in the ninth over.
When Anrich Nortje (2/36) struck to remove King, the home side began to claw their way back as Lungi Ngidi (2/45) and Markram (1/21) took key wickets to leave the score on 161 for eight in the 16th over.
But then came trouble for the Proteas in the form of Romario Shepherd, who bludgeoned an unbeaten 44 off 22 balls, and together with Josephs (14*), put on an unbroken 61 for the ninth wicket to see their side to 220 for eight.
The chase began well for South Africa thanks to Hendricks and fellow opener Quinton de Kock (21). The pair put on 32 in just over four overs, before the latter held out to deep point off Josephs, the fast bowler bagging his first scalp on his way to figures of five for 40.
Next in was Rossouw, who combined for a match-high 80 alongside Hendricks for the second wicket to ensure the home side kept with the pace.
Even after Rossouw fell, the Proteas were in the mix as long as David Miller (11) was still in the middle. However, once he fell, the scoreboard pressure began to build and Hendricks was left with little choice but to throw his bat.
And he went for one shot too many at the start of the 19th over in which Player of the Match Josephs struck thrice to press home the West Indian advantage.
In the end, it was left to Markram to try and get the 26 needed from the final over – too tall an ask in the end leaving the series for West Indies to clinch.