CENTURIAN: South Africa bounced back into contention for 2009 ICC Champions Trophy glory with a five-wicket triumph over New Zealand at SuperSport Park on Thursday.

Upset by Sri Lanka in the opening match of the ODI tournament two days ago, the Proteas had to win and did so with relative ease before a large, holiday crowd. New Zealand were all out for 214 in 47.5 overs and South Africa cruised to 217-5 in 41.1 overs and another win Sunday over England would virtually assure the hosts of a place in the knockout phase.

The ‘Black Caps’, who may have erred in excluding Jeetan Patel for a match on a spin-friendly pitch, face Sri Lanka and England and a couple of victories

would bring them back into the frame. AB de Villiers

was a fitting matchwinner, sealing success with a four having top scored for

the Proteas with an unbeaten 70 in 76 balls, including nine boundaries.

“This was a big day for us and we stood up to deliver a much improved performance. Our bowlers set the tone in the first 15 overs with good intensity and they hit the right areas hard,” said South Africa skipper Graeme Smith. “It was a clinical job well started and well finished and the result will improve our run rate. Now we are going to prepare well for our match against England.”

Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori said: “Our batsmen got bogged down as we sought a competitive score of about 250 runs. Ross (Taylor) and Grant (Elliott) handled the spinners well but the partnership did not last long enough.”

Once again Smith won the toss and once again he opted to field on a dry, slow, uneven early season track that gave the spinners assistance in warm, partly cloudy conditions. Vettori stressed the need to build partnerships, but his plea fell largely on deaf ears with the 71-run stand between Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott a notable exception.

The stubborn 95-ball stand ended when South Africa-born Elliott chose the wrong line and his middle stump was pushed back by a deceptive delivery from spinner Roelof van der Merwe. Taylor was the top Kiwi scorer with 72 off 106 balls before missing a low full toss and being trapped leg before by revitalised Wayne Parnell, who was voted man of the match.

Opener Brendon McCullum was the only other New Zealand batsman to make an impact, scoring 44 before trying a sweep off Johan Botha and getting a top edge to JP Duminy at short fine leg. Parnell, rebounding from a nighmare outing against Sri Lanka, finished with five wickets, impressive Van der Merwe and speedster Dale Steyn claimed two apiece and Botha one.

Set a 4.30-runs-an-over target, Smith managed just seven before departing because he played a Daryl Tuffey too early and Vettori took a simple catch at mid-on. Jacques Kallis was next to go, adding 52 runs for the second wicket with Hisham Amla before an attempted drive off Shane Bond was snapped up by wicketkeeper McCullum.

Although ahead on run rate, South Africa were also struggling to build big partnerships and much-improved Amla returned to the pavilion having made 38 after being trapped leg before by Vettori. Duminy did not last long, scoring just 11 off 13 balls before becoming the victim of a spectacular McCullum catch after trying a cut that took a bottom edge.