BRENDON McCULLUM launched a calculated attack on the Castle Lager Proteas new ball attack and then the former South African under-19 all-rounder, Grant Elliott, finished the job as New Zealand beat the Proteas by four wickets with a ball to spare under the Duckworth/Lewis method to qualify for Sunday’s ICC Cricket World Cup Final.
Their opponents at the Melbourne Cricket Ground will be either India or Australia who play the second semi-final on Thursday.
New Zealand had been set a revised target of 298 in 43 overs after the Proteas had made 281/5 in their 43 overs.
McCullum set the pace for the chase with his innings of 59 off 26 balls (8 fours and 4 sixes) that included a partnership with Martin Guptill of 71 runs from the opening 5 overs.
Imran Tahir put a break on proceedings with a maiden in the sixth over and then McCullum fell to the first ball of Morne Morkel’s next over.
The Proteas gradually pulled the run rate back largely through the efforts of Imran and Morkel who have been their two best bowlers throughout the tournament. Dale Steyn appeared to be struggling with a leg injury and, in fact, had to receive treatment midway through the final over.
The other key partnership was the 103 for the fifth wicket between Man of the Match Elliott (84 off 73 balls, 7 fours and 3 sixes) and Corey Anderson (58 off 57 balls, 6 fours and 2 sixes).
It is difficult to know what the Proteas might have done better to have won the match.
The rain interruption that disrupted the Proteas innings will always be a topic of debate. When it came down the Proteas had 216/3 after 38 overs with Faf du Plessis (82 not out off 106 balls) and AB de Villiers (60 not out off 38 balls) well in control during a partnership of 103 for the fourth wicket.
They had scored 56 between the 30th and 35th over and 32 in the first three overs of the batting power play. At that stage a target in the region of 350 from the full 50 overs looked a very realistic scenario.
But that was not to be. The Proteas had a further 5 overs to face after the rain display and did well to make 65 during this period thanks in the main to David Miller (49 off 18 balls, 6 fours and 3 sixes).
But in the end it was not quite enough.
In spite of this defeat this campaign will go down as South Africa’s best in the 7 World Cups in which they have participated to date.-www.cricket.co.za