WELLINGTON: New Zealanders hailed the Black Caps’ cliffhanger World Cup semi-final win over South Africa as one of the country’s top sporting moments Wednesday and finally began dreaming of even greater glory in the tournament decider on Sunday.
“One to go,” trumpeted the front page of the New Zealand Herald, while the Dominion Post’s back page headline described victory over the Proteas at Eden Park as “The stuff that dreams are made of”.
There was also relief at a four-wicket win achieved with just one ball to spare that propelled New Zealand into the final for the first time after a run of six losses in the semis.
Former Black Cap bowler Jacob Oram said Brendon McCullum’s men had shown their class against a dangerous South African side and should be favourites in a tournament where they remain undefeated after eight matches.
“It looks at the moment like nothing daunts them,” he told commercial radio.
“The bigger the expectation, the more that’s asked, the bigger they stand up. I honestly don’t think this World Cup final is going to daunt these guys.”
Long-suffering Black Caps fans have endured many disappointments over the years but pundits said it was finally time to start believing the team could deliver against either Australia or India in Melbourne on Sunday.
“Dare to dream, New Zealand ” advised Fairfax cricket writer Fred Woodcock, adding: “If you didn’t think these Black Caps had the mental strength to go the whole way, you should now, because they stood up under the pressure that defines teams.”
NZ Herald columnist David Leggat even suggested the spectacle at Eden Park exceeded the Rugby World Cup final at the same venue in 2011, when New Zealand edged France 8-7 — unheard of praise in the All Blacks-obsessed nation.