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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Black caps storm into finals - defeating rain, odds and South Africa

Many take delight in calling Proteas ‘chokers’ and they did nothing to change that tag today !

In the 1st Prudential World Cup 1975, NZ started with a bang – Glenn Turner scored 171 against East Africa and another ton against India.  In the Semis, they were put into bat by Clive Lloyd.  Glenn Turner (36 from 74 balls, 3 fours) and Geoff Howarth (51 from 93 balls, 3 fours) fell, breaking a second-wicket partnership of 90 runs, New Zealand lost 9/60 to fall to 158 (all out, 52.2 overs).  Alvin Kallicharan made 72 off 92  eliminating the Kiwis.   In 1992, Pak defeated the tournament favourites New Zealand in a high scoring match.  Inzamam ul Haq smashed 60 off 37.  It was the WC whence SA were robbed by rain rule !

Today, when SA batted runs were not coming freely.  Amla was out early and Faf Du Plessis made 82 off 107 – he was too slow in the initial stages.  With AB de Villers and Faf Du Plessis at the crease – a score over 300 looked likely….. but that would have been chased in 50 overs.  It did rain after 38 overs with SA at 216/3, the match was later reduced to 43 overs a side.  David Miller played a cameo 49 off 18; Ad de Villiers from 60 off 38 ended 65 off 45 !

In the end SA made 281/5 in 43 overs and DL rule set the target at 298 in 43 ~ actually, 297 would have sufficed, as a tie would have still taken NZ to finals. 

McCullum gave a real flying start – shredding the attack especially Vernon Philander – a 22 ball 50.  Once he got out, wickets kept falling, SA fielding was impressive – boundaries were hard to come by.  It boiled down to 46 off 31 balls when Anderson top-edged high into the night sky and perilously close to the Spidercam wires which would have made it a dead ball.  Luke Ronchi followed and in walked the 36 year old Daniel Vettori, and at that stage, one felt the match had drifted away from the Kiwis.  

Then came the fielding lapses. De Villiers fumbled a run out – at 40.3 Elliot ran mad – the throw was good – not the keeper, who disturbed the stumps without collecting the ball.  At least twice, the Kiwis ran when the ball was in keeper’s gloves and the throw never was on target.  Then a high catch went abegging.  JP Duminy dived in the way to prevent Farhaan Behardien – though it appeared that Behardien had already spilled by that time.  

End of over 41 23 off 12 balls ~ still many fancied only SA.  The last over target was 12 and with Dale Steyn, it seemed – all over.  Vettori, in between ran hard, having placed a four earlier.  The 5th ball of the over soared over long on – a mighty hit by Elliot, putting many SA on the ground weeping.  Jubilation for New Zealand. Fireworks in the air. Tears at the ground.

The hero with that six and Man of the match - Grant David Elliott, was born in  Johannesburg, Transvaal;  left his native South Africa in 2001 looking for new horizons, and found them in March 2008 when he was named in New Zealand's 13-man squad for the first Test against England at Hamilton. He won his first Test cap in the final Test after Jacob Oram picked up an injury, but struggled to make an impression with one wicket and two batting failures.

Today, he played the innings of his life and would be remembered for long long time to come.  Elliott pulled an injured Dale Steyn high over mid-on to ensure New Zealand's adventure would stretch all the way to Melbourne.

New Zealand in finals for the first time and whom would they face would be known by Thursday !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

24th Mar 2015.

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