SYDNEY: New Zealand defeated South Africa by four wickets Tuesday in one of the greatest World Cup matches ever played to win through to Sunday’s final as co-hosts Australia got ready for their last-four clash with defending champions India.
A rain-affected see-saw semi-final at Auckland’s Eden Park, eventually came down to New Zealand needing five to win off the last two balls.
But South Africa-born Grant Elliott, whose unbeaten 84 was a masterclass of batting under pressure, then stepped up to inflict more World Cup semi-final misery on his compatriots by smashing injured fast bowler Dale Steyn for six as New Zealand reached their revised victory target of 298 with one ball to spare.
The win meant New Zealand, who’d lost all six of their previous World Cup semi-finals, had at last made it through to the tournament’s climax and could look forward to taking part in Sunday’s showpiece match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
But for South Africa, who’ve yet to play in a World Cup final, this was the fourth time they’d fallen at the semi-final hurdle.
“At the end what a great innings from Grant Elliott,” said New Zealand captain and opener Brendon McCullum, who launched the Black Caps’ reply with a typically aggressive 59.
“He came out of the wilderness not long ago and now just played a match-winning innings in a World Cup semi-final.”
Elliott, who turned 36 last weekend, finished the match in style to round off a superb 73-ball innings including seven fours and three sixes.
“It is great. I don’t think this win is for myself, or the team, it is for everyone here. The support has been amazing,” said Elliott.
South Africa, who won the toss and batted, overcame a shaky start to recover to 216 for three off 38 overs.
But with Faf du Plessis (82) and skipper AB de Villiers (65 not out) going well, rain then stopped play.
When the match resumed after two hours, it had been reduced to a 43 overs per side clash and the Proteas had lost all their momentum.
David Miller’s blistering 49 off just 18 balls helped South Africa finish on 281 for five — the Proteas scoring 65 in their last five overs.