It was an uncharacteristically out of shape Dale Steyn who was handed the ball in the last over, by skipper AB de Villiers. The situation at that point of time was nothing short of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. New Zealand needed 12 to win, and Grant Elliot and Daniel Vettori were the two batsmen in the middle. Vettori somehow managed to glide the third ball of the over to the deep point boundary. And Grant Elliot, today’s Man of the Match, sent the fifth one for a whooping six over long on. The game was over, and New Zealand found themselves in the final of a Cricket World Cup for the first time in history! South Africa, as some would say, lost a close knock-out game yet again!
South Africa bat first, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers take charge
ABD’s decision to bat first was quite understandable – he was fully aware of South Africa’s poor credentials in chasing targets in this World Cup. However, Amla and de Kock departed early by the eight over, and the Proteas were under fire. Faf du Plessis, though, was in a different mould today. Unperturbed by the aggressive leadership of Brendon McCullum, he forged a brilliant 83 run stand with Rilee Rossouw to take his team out of trouble. Skipper AB de Villiers joined him in the 27th over, and the Proteas scoring rate skyrocketed from thereon. A 103 run stand between the two batsmen could have extended a bit longer, if South Africa’s perennial nemesis – rain – had not interrupted play in the 38th over.
Overs reduced, but Miller comes out all guns blazing
An extended rain break and du Plessis’ wicket two balls after resumption of play could have taken the winds of the South African sails. But David Miller’s 18 ball 49 run cameo made sure that his team reached a respectable total of 281/5 in the allotted 43 overs of play. The Duckworth Lewis calculations were then done, and the co hosts were set a mammoth of target of 298!
Brendon McCullum starts chase and floors South Africa
Much like the blazing fashion in which Baz has greeted opposition bowlers throughout this World Cup, he did the same with Steyn and Co. today. The Kiwi skipper’s 26 ball 59 run knock flattened the South African spirit, and gave New Zealand just the start they wanted. Morne Morkel, however, hit back with the wickets of McCullum and Williamson in successive overs. Martin Guptill’s unfortunate run out and Ross Taylor’s fluke dismissal to Duminy in the 22nd over brought the Proteas right back into the game.
Corey Anderson shines, Grant Elliot takes New Zealand home
New Zealand’s consolidation during the middle overs came largely due to the 103 run stand between Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot for the 5th wicket. Both were remorseless in punishing the errant South Africans every now and then. The required run rate was never allowed to get out of control, and the boundaries were never out of sight. The Proteas came back very late in the game when Morkel dismissed Anderson for a score of 58, in the 38th over. However, a couple of missed run out chances and misjudged catches meant that South Africa had conceded way too much room to the home team. Despite the loss of Anderson, the Kiwis managed to secure a tense victory in the end, ably guided by a brilliant knock of 84 from Grant Elliot. So an unfortunate ending for the South Africans and continuation of the amazing success of the kiwis, but in the end to borrow a cliched term, cricket was the winner !
Brief Scores – New Zealand (299/6 in 42.5 overs, Grant Elliot 84*, Corey Anderson 58, Morne Morkel 3/59) beat South Africa (281/5 in 43 overs, Faf du Plessis 82, AB de Villiers 65*, Corey Anderson 3/72) by 4 wickets (D/L Method)