Uday Sankar Das
What a cliff-hanger! The pendulum swung from one team to another quite rapidly and it could have been anybody's game. But the Proteas will rue the missed run-outs and floored catches which ultimately made them pay the price. The last blow came in the penultimate ball when South Africa born Grant Elliot hoisted one from Dale Steyn for the maximum to get past the target of 298 set under the Duckworth Lewis method in a rain-curtailed semi-final at Eden Park, Auckland. There was jubilation at one end and despair at the other as New Zealand beat South Africa by four wickets in one of the most thrilling and nerve wracking matches in this World Cup.
It was seventh attempt of the Black Caps who now fly to Melbourne to meet the winners of the second semi-final on 29th March.
The target of 298 in 43 overs seemed a tall order although New Zealand started at a fiery pace with skipper Brendon McCullum firing 59 off 26 balls. But when Guptill was needlessly run out at 128 and Taylor lost his wicket with the
team score at 149 for 4, it seemed quite a steep task for the Black Caps. But then Grant Elliot and Cory Anderson steadied the innings to steer the team near the victory line. When Anderson was out in a lovely Morne Morkel over, the Black Caps required 46 off 5 overs. There was still hope for the South Africans. Luke Ronchi was out cheaply taking the score to 269 for 6 in the 41st over. Vettori came to the crease and the required runs came down to 23 in the last two overs and then 12 in the final over. With only five required from the last two balls, Elliot just hoisted a good length ball from Dale Steyn to long on for six thus bringing the much longed-for victory that propelled the New Zealanders to the final of the Cricket World Cup for the first time.
Earlier, When South African Skipper AB de Villiers won the toss and decided to bat, the Black Caps bowlers were firing all guns. Both the openers Hashem Amla and Quinton de Kock returned to the dressing room with only 31 on board. But then Rossouw and Faf du Plessis took the score to 114, du Plessis and AB de Villiers to 217-4, and finally to 283 for 5 in 43 overs, with du Plessis, de Villiers and Miller scoring 65, 82 not out and 49 respectively. Cory Anderson took 3 wickets for 72 and Boult 2 for 53. In between, there was an interruption for about two hours because of rain and the match was curtailed with Duckworth Lewis method coming into force.
It was an amazing and outstanding game, thoroughly enjoyed by the fans. It was that sort of a game that the fans have been yearning for in this World Cup.
Congratulations to New Zealand, commiserations to South Africa. But both the teams deserve a big pat on the back for putting up such an incredible show. It was an excellent cricket spectacle.