Auckland (IANS): Grant Elliot’s massive heave (84 not out) helped New Zealand reach their first ever cricket World Cup final as they overcame a spirited South Africa by four wickets with a ball to spare in a thrilling first semi-final at the Eden Park here on Tuesday.
Faf du Plessis (82) and captain AB de Villiers (65 not out) took South Africa to 281/5 in 43 overs in a rain-curtailed match decided by Duckworth/Lewis method. Rilee Rossouw (39) and David Miller (18-ball 49) also contributed to the total.
Rain halted play after 38 overs of the Proteas innings and continued for more than 90 minutes. It reduced the match to 43 overs per side, forcing D/L method to peek in. According to the D/L method, the target was revised and the hosts needed 298 in 43 overs.
In reply, New Zealand got over the line with contributions from skipper Brendon McCullum (26-ball 59), Corey Anderson (58) and Elliot (84 not out).
Leading from the front, McCullum (26-ball 59) blasted eight fours and four sixes to give his side a flying start. He notched up his 30th ODI half-century.
But when he and his deputy Kane Williamson (6) were removed by pacer Morne Morkel, New Zealand were in trouble at 81/2 in nine overs.
Opener Martin Guptill, who knocked an unbeaten 237 in the last match, scored 34 and got involved in a 47-run stand with experienced Ross Taylor (30).
Guptill was soon run out and off-spinner Jean-Paul Duminy got rid of Taylor. The two quick dismissals left the hosts on backfoot at 149/4 in 22nd overs, still requiring another 149 runs.
It was then that Anderson and seasoned Elliot repaired the damage. They ensured that New Zealand remain in hunt as far as the run rate was concerned.
Their crucial 103-run partnership ended when Anderson, who scored his fourth ODI fifty, skied a Morkel delivery to du Plessis at square leg. With 46 runs still needed from five overs, wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi scored just eight.
South Africa would rue their missed chances. De Villiers and wicketkeeper de Kock missed the run-outs of Anderson and Elliot at critical moments of the match. Jean-Paul Duminy dropped the catch of Elliot.
With 12 required off the final over, Dale Steyn conceded six runs in the first three balls. Later, with five needed off two balls, Elliot, 36, pulled off a big heave towards deep mid-wicket to win it for the home team. Daniel Vettori (7) remained not out.
With this loss, South Africa now have lost their fourth semi-final, while the home side has been lucky in their seventh semi-final appearance of the World Cup.
Earlier, du Plessis, who scored his 15th One-Day International (ODI) half-century, held the innings together. The right-handed batsman was involved in a crucial 83-run stand with Rilee Rossouw (39) for the third wicket.
That set up the game for the big-hitters like de Villiers and David Miller. Left-hander Miller bludgeoned his way to a 18-ball 49 and fired the team to 281/5 in 43 overs.
Pacer Trent Boult with his 2-53 in his nine overs, became the highest wicket-taker of the ongoing World Cup with 21 scalps. He also became New Zealand’s highest wicket taker ever in a single edition of the World Cup, overtaking pacer Geoff Allott, who took 20 wickets in the 1999 World Cup.
However, the target was not enough as New Zealand crossed it by displaying fearless brand of cricket. They also scored the highest runs to chase down a target in a World Cup knock-out match.
A crestfallen South African skipper de Villiers later admitted New Zealand were the better team and deservedly won the thrilling contest.
“Amazing game of cricket. I guess the better team has come out on top. I couldn’t ask for anything more from our boys, will take a while to get over this. We gave it our best, it’s hurting quite a bit,” de Villiers said.
“We played to make a difference, I hope the people back home will still be proud of us.”
An ecstatic New Zealand skipper McCullum said he would remember the edge-of-the-seat encounter for the rest of his life.
“It’s pretty amazing. South Africa gave us as good as they got all day and I thought the game was outstanding. Great advertisement for cricket and I am sure everyone that was here will remember this for the rest of their lives.”
He said: ” know that our boys will. We will give ourselves a chance at World Cup glory, which is a fine achievement, really proud of all the boys’ efforts.”
Man-of-the-Match Grant Elliott credited the entire team for the stupendous effort.
“It’s great. I don’t think this win is for myself or the team, but everyone here. The supporters have been amazing. We wanted to take it as deep as we could. I think we timed the pace of the innings to perfection,” he said.