In the real world, there’s no make believe. But as long as Daniel Vettori was there, New Zealand could have been forgiven for thinking that there was enchantment in the air and their Harry Potter lookalike would whip out his wand and have them whizzing into the final.
But it was too much to ask of Vettori (79), who stood around for two hours, gamely fighting on even after Jacob Oram (43), who had conspired with him for a 103-run seventh wicket stand that took the Kiwis off the ground, departed. But when Vettori fell, trying to force the pace, the Kiwis might as well have sung, “it's all over now”.
Or perhaps, they should have sung it at the beginning of their innings, when a superb display of seam bowling by the Australian pacemen, making full use of the helpful conditions under lights, ran through the New Zealand top order. After being 35-6, the Kiwis were always going to flutter around like headless chickens and the fact that they lost by only 34 runs in the end should do them proud.
After all, this game nearly read R.I.P, New Zealand cricket after the way they began chasing 240, the iffy sort of target that was gettable if they survived the start. That they didn’t was in large part due to a 36-year-old who seems to defy those who say that there’s no life for speedsters after 30.
How do you describe Glenn McGrath, thought by many (at their peril!) to be past his prime? Man-of-the-match McGrath, who finished with figures of 10-2-22-3, began with a gentle away-swinger that took the edge of Lou Vincent’s bat and found an eager Ricky Ponting at second slip.
Stephen Fleming was New Zealand’s main hope at the other end but the Kiwi skipper needed either Vincent or Nathan Astle to back up. And five balls later, Astle too fell, done in by Lee’s express pace.
And then, it was just one thing after the other with Fleming’s 15 (he edged Bracken to the slips) being the only score over five among the top five bats. He would know they have only themselves to blame - they had Australia on the backfoot right at the beginning when both Aussie openers fell to Kyle Mills with only four on board.
On match eve, Fleming had stated that the only way for a team to win against the world champions would be by keeping the pressure on. Unfortunately for him, they didn’t.
Damien Martyn, all powerful grace and Ponting, who put up a display of batting at its most beautiful - when played with a very straight bat - used all their experience to get the Aussies back on track. And though they tried, life for the Kiwis would never be the same thereafter.