Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Zealand Pip South Africa to Reach the 2015 World Cup Finals!

Semi Final 1: New Zealand vs South Africa at Eden Park, Auckland on 24th March 2015 – Match Review

New Zealand beat South Africa by 4 Wickets (D/L Method)

It was cloudy and a bit blustery at the toss which AB De Villiers won and decided that South Africa will bat first. That was a big plus for South Africa as the pressure of chasing in a big knockout game had been avoided. In a debatable team selection the stellar Kyle Abbot was replaced by Vernon Philander who had had an ordinary tournament up until today. New Zealand threw in Matt Henry for the injured Adam Milne.

Nervousness was writ large on the faces of the Protea openers Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock as Tim Southee and Trent Boult swung the ball just like every day morning routine. De Kock edged one wide of the 3rd slip for a streaky boundary off Boult before being put down by Luke Ronchi in the same over. In the very next over Boult could not reach a miscued pull shot from Amla! But Amla was bowled off Boult in the 4th over chasing a wide one and dragging it back on to his stumps. South Africa were 21 for 1 in the 4th over which soon became 31 for 2 in the 8th as De Kock swung wildly and gave a catch to third man, Boult picking up his second.

Faf Du Plessis, the man who was at the center in 2011, was battling against Boult and Matt Henry. He was having a tough time but he soaked up all that was being thrown at him. Giving him company was the young Rilee Rossouw who, after a slow start was starting to open up a bit. Rossouw hit some beautiful shots straight down the ground. South Africa reached 100 in the 25th over, slow going as the conditions were tough and the Kiwis were throwing themselves in the field. Rossouw was held brilliantly by the hero of their Quarter Final clash Martin Guptill, he flew to his right to grab the ball with just two fingers!!

That brought AB De Villiers to the middle and it was Faf and De Villiers again that had to do the job for the South Africans. Faf was starting to blossom as the sun made an appearance and AB was off the blocks in typical busy manner. AB was dropped by Kane Williamson and Faf hit a big six as the powerplay was taken in the 35th over. Rain arrived with South Africa at 216 for 3 in 38 overs. As the delay got longer with the persisting rain, overs started to get reduced and D/L came in to picture.

The match was reduced to 43 overs a side when play finally began again. Faf Du Plessis was out caught behind, strangled down the leg side soon upon resumption. David Miller, the next man in though got straight in to the act as he started slamming fours and sixes off Anderson and Southee. De Villiers was going about business at the other end as usual. The 50 partnership between these two took just 23 balls and David Miller was out in the last over, he made a vital 49 off just 19 deliveries. Duminy played out the last 4 balls for 8 runs as South Africa made an imposing 281 for 5 off their 43 overs which was propped up give New Zealand a target of 298 to win in their 43 overs!

Brendon McCullum had dismantled the English attack and tore the Australian attack to shreds and he was at work again. He blasted Vernon Philander, his first over costing 18 runs. Dale Steyn was his next target, the South African ace was smacked straight back for a six before being pulled in to the crowd. He was also driven and tucked down to the fine leg, the over going for 25! McCullum brought up his fifty off just 22 balls and New Zealand raced to their fifty in just the 5th over. Martin Guptill, a man fresh from a double ton, was a spectator at the other end!

South Africa needed McCullum fast as the game was quickly slipping away from them and Morne provided a double breakthrough as the Kiwi skipper chipped a catch to Steyn at mid on and then bowled Kane Williamson off a short lifting delivery as New Zealand slipped from 0-71 to 2-81. That brought Taylor to the crease and he along with Guptill went about resurrecting the innings. They were just about getting in a safe zone when a huge mix up saw Martin Guptill being run out. Ross Taylor was guilty of ball watching and New Zealand lost the in form player to a silly run out. Taylor tried to make up for his blemish but was caught by De Kock off the part time spin of Duminy down the leg side.

New Zealand was 149-4 in the 22nd over, still 150 runs adrift from their target. The big hitting Corey Anderson joined forces with Grant Elliot as they slowly but surely kept chipping away at the target. South Africa had a chance to run Anderson out when he was on 33 but a combination of a bad throw and the over excitement of AB meant that South Africa had missed their chance. Both the players completed their respective half centuries and the 100 partnership came up between the two as well. It was their game to lose at that point. But Morkel returned to snaffle Anderson after he had bowled a superb over to him, Du Plessis holding on to a skier. Luke Ronchi came and went as New Zealand were at 269 for six after 40.1 overs.

The old man, Daniel Vettori, no mug with the bat and who has been in the pressure situations for New Zealand since the past 15 years was at the crease now. 29 were needed off 17 balls at this point in time. Pressure, pressure!! Grant Elliot was dropped off the last ball of the 42nd over, JP Duminy flying in to the way of Farhaan Behardien at fine leg. 12 needed of the last over. Vettori on strike. Dale Steyn with the ball in his hand. A bye was stolen off the first ball and a single off the second meant that Vettori was on strike for the 3rd ball. Steyn went down with a calf/ hamstring injury and was tended to by the physio. Vettori squeezed a boundary wide of third man and another bye of the next ball meant that the equation was now 5 from 2 balls. New Zealand needed to tie this game to advance but Elliot, just as Kane Williamson had done against Australia at this very ground, calmly hit Steyn for a six to spark wild scenes at the Eden Park.

Grant Elliot lets his emotions out after dispatching the penultimate ball of the match
for a six off Dale Steyn that sealed the match

Elliot let out a guttural roar but was the first to give Steyn a hand as he lay slump on the pitch after conceding that six. Faf fell to his knees at short mid wicket and De Villiers could not believe it. The Kiwi players were hugging each other and rushing out on the outfield. Morne Morkel was a picture of despair as he cried inconsolably. David Miller and AB De Villiers had red eyes too. Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum sported huge smiles. Daniel Vettori was emotionless as always. The fireworks lit up the Eden Park and the rest of New Zealand but the spark and the fire that the match had provided would remain lit in the hearts of the cricket fans for years to come. South Africa had not chocked this time around and they can hold their heads high as they gave everything they had to win this game. It was just that New Zealand were better on the given day.

This was a match that had everything, brilliant swing bowling, batting under pressure, dazzling fielding, sloppy fielding, clean ball striking, menacing bowling, calmness under pressure, joy and pain, sadness and anguish and a gut wrenching and a stomach churning finish. The atmosphere at the ground was electric; I wish I could one day witness such a game live at the stadium. New Zealand awaits the winners of the Australia-India clash as they pack their bags for Melbourne!

PS - The image used is courtesy www.espncricinfo.com

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