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Now, Kiwis turn the choke on SA

Graeme Smith would have wanted much better performance than his team came up with in what turned out to be his last ODI as captain. Nilankur Das reports. Scorecard

cricket Updated: Mar 26, 2011 09:22 IST
Nilankur Das

Graeme Smith would have wanted much better performance than his team came up with in what turned out to be his last ODI as captain. Chasing 222 on a wicket not conducive to stroke-making, though not unplayable, South Africa, living up to their reputation of chokers yet again, faltered to crash out of the World Cup.

South African batsmen, after suffering a collapse against England, stood firm in the league stage, including in the tight game against India. But they went down on their knees, allowing New Zealand to sail into the World Cup semis for the record sixth time.

Beginning with spin from both ends with close-in fielders breathing down the throats of batsmen, Vettori showed he meant business. A freak dismissal of Hashim Amla in the very first over - an ender edge from his bat bounced off Brendon McCullum’s boot to the slips - set the Kiwis on their way.

Donald effect?
Something in the body language of the Kiwis suggested they were sensing an upset. Even when Jacques Kallis and Smith were busy building a partnership, there’s no let up in intensity. Perhaps, that’s what, as Vettori also mentioned, Allan Donald has brought to the Kiwi side.

“I think the fact that he’s Allan Donald brings a lot of confidence to the unit. A lot of it is about preparation, and knowing how to succeed in some parts and having the right attitude,” said Vettori about the team's bowling consultant.

Over-confident SA?
South Africa have shown stranger ways of bowing out of World Cups, like in 1999 and in 2003. This one had a different twist. Having scored 284 in the previous match against Bangladesh, chasing a modest target of 222 perhaps made the Proteas a touch over-confident.

It, however, took just one over to jolt them out of it.

In the 28th over, Nathan McCullum had JP Duminy played-on, and then a horrible mix-up between AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis put the Kiwis on top. Du Plessis waged a lone battle, but ran out of partners.

Right decision
Vettori’s decision to bat first gave his batsmen best conditions to put a good score on the board. Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill didn't dig in their heels, raising apprehensions of yet another collapse. But a 114-run stand between Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder and some robust hitting towards the end gave the New Zealand total some respectability.

The innings got fillip in the batting Powerplay, with the tail playing around Kane Williamson, who remained unbeaten on 38 off 41 balls, to help Kiwis get past 200 mark.

The Kiwis have defeated both the group toppers after coming into the competition on the back of a horrible tour to the subcontinent. They have never made it to the finals, and with the knack to cause upsets, they could be the lucky sixth time.