WELLINGTON: New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill continued a dream run of form as the Black Caps posted a six wicket win over South Africa in the opening Twenty20 international in Wellington on Friday.
Guptill's undefeated 78 off 55 balls was his sixth successive international half-century, steering New Zealand to four for 148 with four balls to spare in reply to South Africa's six for 147.
The opener, who put Zimbabwe's attack to the sword in the recent tour whitewash, looked comfortable against more challenging opposition in South Africa's first trip to New Zealand in eight years.
He smashed four sixes in his innings, one booming effort off Lonwabo Tsotsobe's bowling sailing onto the roof of Westpac Stadium before it bounced back down onto the pitch.
Kane Williamson also made a valuable cameo with 24 off 22 balls, while paceman Tim Southee took three for 28 to limit South Africa's total.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum's decision to send South Africa into bat on a slow pitch after winning the toss paid dividends with early wickets, preventing the Proteas building momentum.
JP Duminy top scored for South Africa with 41, while Justin Ontong, returning to the national team after a three-year absence, hit four successive sixes in his 32 off 17 balls.
Hashim Amla, who had looked threatening, was the first to go after trying to snatch a quick single off a mis-field in the fourth over, only for Guptill to dive in from the field with ball in hand and knock over the stumps.
Colin Ingram departed for a duck in the next over when he charged down the pitch to attack a Nathan McCullum off-break, leaving himself stranded when it slipped past him and into the hands of Brendon McCullum behind the wicket.
Southee then joined the attack, smashing Levi in the helmet with his second ball, then going on to claim the wicket with the last ball of the over when Levi misjudged a slower ball and sent it sailing to Doug Bracewell.
AB de Villiers came to the crease with his side reeling at 38 for three but could only manage eight off 17 balls before being ruled out to a debatable catch and the carnage continued.
De Villiers hit spinner Ronnie Hira to short cover, where Guptill swooped and claimed a low catch, the South African captain initially standing his ground until third umpire Chris Gaffaney ruled him out after inconclusive TV replays.
New Zealand, their tails up, then restricted Ontong and Duminy to just six runs an over through the middle of the innings, forcing the batsmen onto the back foot with aggressive bowling and sharp fielding.
It was the Black Caps' turn to question the umpire when Ontong appeared to edge the ball to wicketkeeper McCullum, with the umpire ruling the ball hit his body.
The decision proved costly for the home side when Ontong belted four successive sixes off part-time spinner Kane Williamson to add some respectability to South Africa's score.
But he was dismissed in the next over, caught and bowled by Southee, who just got his fingertips to the ball as he lunged to his right.
Southee claimed his third wicket when Duminy, who battled doggedly to steady South Africa's innings, departed for 41.
The next T20 of the three match series will be played at Hamilton on Sunday. The tour includes three T20s, three one-day internationals and three Tests.