New Zealand held their nerve in the semi-final to score a four-wicket victory and knock South Africa out of the World Cup.
Call it what you want. A disappointment. A disaster. They all amount to the same thing. The Proteas are going home.
South Africa had opportunity after opportunity to win this match. But as has been the case in every one of their previous World Cup campaigns, they failed to produce the goods at the business end of the contest.
Rain reduced this game to a 43-over-a-side affair, and South Africa’s total of 281-5 was adjusted according to the Duckworth Lewis method. A target of 298 in 43 overs looked to be a big ask for the hosts, and yet, they managed to keep up with the required run-rate from the outset.
Brendon McCullum’s fearless knock of 59 off 26 balls gave the New Zealanders plenty of early momentum. The Black Caps skipper showed absolutely no respect for the likes of Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, and Vernon Philander, the latter going for 22 runs in his first over. After five overs, New Zealand were flying at 71-0.
South Africa did well to fight their way back into the contest. Morkel dismissed McCullum and the dangerous Kane Williamson in quick succession. Martin Guptill never looked comfortable against Imran Tahir, and a mix-up with partner Ross Taylor resulted in his dismissal. Taylor then followed Guptill back to the hut after edging a leg-side catch to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
But New Zealand were far from done. Grant Elliot and Corey Anderson clubbed together for a 103-run partnership, and managed to transfer the pressure back on to the fielding side. The Proteas had a great chance to affect a run-out in the 32nd over, but De Villiers failed to collect Rilee Rossouw’s throw from the deep. With that miss, the Proteas’ heads dropped.
With 11 overs remaining and just 90 runs needed, New Zealand called for the batting PowerPlay. The partisan Eden Park crowd, sensing a famous comeback victory for their team, started to find their voice. Suddenly, it was New Zealand’s game to lose.
There was a glimmer of hope for the Proteas when Anderson skied a Morkel delivery and was well caught by Faf du Plessis. New Zealand went into the final three overs needing 29 runs to win.
That flame of hope began to burn brighter for South Africa when Luke Ronchi was caught on the square leg boundary. But in somewhat typical fashion, the Proteas followed up a good piece of fielding with a wasted opportunity.
Had a throw from the deep been more accurate, Elliott would have been short of his ground, and the Proteas would have eliminated the biggest threat to their chances. As it was, South Africa conspired to botch yet another big play.
That flame was not extinguished just yet. Morkel went for 11 runs in the penultimate over, leaving Steyn to defend 11 runs at the death. That over by Morkel also witnessed yet another missed chance when Farhaan Behardien and JP Duminy collided in an attempt to catch a miscued pull by Elliot.
Steyn started the final over well, conceded two runs from his first two deliveries. But when his hamstring started to trouble him, the momentum swung back in New Zealand’s favour. A full delivery was dispatched to the fence by Daniel Vettori, and Elliott finished the game off with a booming six over long-on.
Some might say that South Africa were unlucky. After losing two early wickets, they fought back to a position where they were 216-3 at the end of the 38th over. You would have expected them to kick on to a score of 320 or more, given that Du Plessis and De Villiers were well set at that stage. As it was, the rain moved in and halted play for more than an hour, and thus changed the complexion of the game.
But to say the Proteas were denied a deserved win by rain or Messrs Duckworth and Lewis would be grossly inaccurate. New Zealand were set a target of 298 in 43 overs, and were required to score at nearly seven runs an over from the outset. The Proteas failed to defend that total, and this suggests that they didn’t deserve to win the game and advance to final.
The Proteas also had their fair share of luck. Their innings may have panned out differently had Du Plessis received his marching orders when he was on 35. Williamson struck Du Plessis on the pads with a straight delivery, but his appeal for lbw was turned down. Television replays confirmed that had New Zealand asked for a review, they would have claimed a prize wicket.
De Villiers so nearly played the first ball he received back onto his own stumps. The Proteas skipper took this in his stride, scoring at quicker than a run a ball. New Zealand started to feel the pressure in the field, and Williamson missed a big chance when he put down De Villiers on 38.
The South African batsmen put the team in a position to win this match. Du Plessis, De Villiers, David Miller, and Rossouw all made telling contributions. Unfortunately, the batsmen would be let down by the fielders and bowlers in the second half of the contest.
Philander battled for fitness over the course of the tournament, and was clearly in no sort of form for a semi-final. Steyn picked up a niggle during the match, but ultimately failed to fire when the Proteas needed him most. You could say that Morkel contributed, and that Tahir was tidy, but the South African bowlers did not perform as a unit.
It was a point of concern in the lead up to the tournament, and it cost the Proteas dearly in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
South Africa 281-5 in 43 overs (Faf du Plessis 82, AB de Villiers 65 not out, Corey Anderson 3-72, Trent Boult 2-53)
New Zealand 299-6 in 42.5 overs (Grant Elliot 84 not out, Brendon McCullum 59, Corey Anderson 58, Morné Morkel 3-59)
New Zealand won by four wickets (D/L method)