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Fearless Kiwis shatter semis jinx

Fearless Kiwis shatter semis jinx
New Zealand scripted history by making their maiden Cup final appearance with a stunning four-wicket win in a nerve-wrecking last-four clash against the formidable South Africa, finally shedding the tag of perennial under-achievers in the mega event.

Chasing a stiff 298 in 43 overs under the Duckworth/Lewis rule in the rain-curtailed game, New Zealand crossed the line when Grant Elliot (84) smashed Dale Steyn over long-on for a six with just one ball to spare in a thrilling showdown. Needing 12 to win off six balls, Vettori found the fence to bring the equation down to five from two balls, before Elliot hit the winning runs as the Eden Park broke into wild celebrations.

The result meant the perennial choker’s tag would continue to haunt South Africa and they would once again look for soul searching. Since the inaugural edition in 1975, New Zealand have reached the semifinals of the showpiece event six times, but failed to clear the penultimate hurdle on all the occasions. However, they looked determined to script history today and despite being set a daunting target, the Kiwis never gave up and were spurred on by a vociferous home crowd.

Earlier, David Miller had blazed his way to a 18-ball 49 as the Proteas set a difficult target. Opting to bat, South Africa notched up 281 for five, but the target was revised under the Duckworth/Lewis method after seven overs each were deducted per side following a two-hour rain interruption.

Skipper AB de Villiers made an unbeaten 65 off 45 balls, while Faf du Plessis top-scored with a 107-ball 82, but it was Miller’s innings that gave Proteas the much-needed impetuous towards the end.In reply, the New Zealanders were off to a flying start with skipper Brendon McCullum going hammer and tongs at the South African pacers, especially Steyn. Such was his onslaught against Steyn that the South African pace spearhead was clobbered for 25 runs as New Zealand raced to 71 for no loss in five overs.

McCullum’s two sixes and three fours against Steyn was followed by a maiden over by Imran Tahir, and it worked in the Proteas’ favour as the pressure created by the leg-spinner saw McCullum throwing away his wicket. His manic fifty contained eight boundaries and four sixes. The belligerent 26-ball 59 set the tone for what turned out to be a historic chase. Elliott and Corey Anderson (58) played smartly, mixing caution with aggression, and it was their 103-run partnership for the fifth wicket that kept the Black Caps in the game after McCullum’s dismissal.

By the time Anderson was the fifth man out, New Zealand needed 46 runs from 30 balls, standing a very good chance of crossing the line. Elliott ensured he finished the task by staying till the very end. Elliott hit seven fours and three sixes in his unbeaten 73-ball knock, while Anderson found the fence six times and cleared it twice in his 57-ball innings.

Greatest time of our lives: McCullum

A sensational win over South Africa in the heart-stopping semifinal has given New Zealand its maiden entry into the World Cup final, a moment which victorious captain Brendon McCullum described as the ‘greatest time’ of their lives. “South Africa gave as good as they got all day. It was a great advertisement for cricket. Everybody involved will remember this for the rest of their lives....(It is) the greatest time of our lives. We have enjoyed the experience.

The crowds that have turned, the brand of cricket we have tried to play,” McCullum said after the win at the Eden Park. But contrary to the result, South Africa were cruising at one stage when AB De Villiers was on song after opting to bat but rain halted their progress. Asked what he was thinking at that time, the Kiwi skipper said, “Keep raining is what I thought when AB was going. The way we kept giving it in the field, the way we bowled, we did good. Even with the bat. We wanted to hang in till the end. What a great innings from Grant (Elliott). He came out of wilderness not long ago.”

On his blistering knock (59 off 26) that set up the chase, the skipper said, “We had to generate some sort of run-rate early that is what we tried to go. Credit to South Africa the way they played tonight and throughout the tournament.”
PTI

PTI

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