South Africa's Reeza Hendricks on his way to 74 in the 1st T20 against Ireland at Bristol

Bristol (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Reeza Hendricks hit his fourth successive Twenty20 fifty as South Africa defeated Ireland by 21 runs in their series opener at Bristol on Wednesday.

Hendricks, who hit three half-centuries in the Proteas’ recent 2-1 series win over England, top-scored with 74 in a total of 211-5 and shared a third-wicket partnership of 112 with Aiden Markram (56).

“I think I’ve been working really hard,” said Hendricks, now one of just five batsmen to have scored four consecutive half-centuries at this level, during the presentation ceremony. “Momentum is important. I’ve been enjoying English conditions.”

Lorcan Tucker (78) and George Dockrell (43) kept Ireland in the hunt but when the pair were dismissed off successive balls their side’s hopes of victory went with them.

‘Death-bowling’ specialist Wayne Parnell proved his worth for all he was hit for six off the last ball off the innings by tailender Barry McCarthy as Ireland finished on 190-9.

Left-arm paceman Parnell returned figures of 2-36, stand-in Proteas captain Keshav Maharaj took 2-29 with his left-arm spin and leg-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi 2-37.

For Ireland, it was yet another case of close but not close enough as they suffered a seventh successive T20 defeat having been competitive against India, New Zealand and now South Africa this season.

“We were in the game for a long time,” said Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie. “The two wickets in two balls made the difference.”

Hendricks’s latest fifty came off 32 balls, including seven fours and a six, while Markram got to the landmark in 25 balls including six boundaries.

The pair fell to consecutive deliveries, with leg-spinner Gareth Delany having Markram caught at deep square leg before Hendricks holed out to point.

Ireland, however, did not help their cause by bowling 13 wides – more than two extra overs.

South Africa’s attack largely kept Ireland in check but a sixth-wicket stand of 86 between Tucker and Dockrell gave the Proteas something to think about.

Fine fifty - Ireland's Lorcan Tucker hits out against South Africa at Bristol

Tucker faced just 38 balls, including seven fours and five sixes. But he fell when skying Shamsi to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock off the last delivery of the 17th over.

Ireland needed 42 off the final three overs and the very next ball saw Dockrell well caught by Markram, diving forward from long-off, as he hit out at Dwaine Pretorius.

South Africa suffered a setback before the match started, with captain David Miller ruled out by a back spasm, with fellow batsman Heinrich Klaasen taking his place in the XI.

Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada had already been sidelined from both matches in a two-game series that concludes in Bristol on Friday with an ankle injury.

“David Miller will hopefully be ready for the next one,” said Maharaj.