AUCKLAND, March 24 – Co-hosts New Zealand are through to their first World Cup final after Grant Elliott’s cool-headed 84no earned a four-wicket victory over South Africa on the Duckworth-Lewis method in a cracking, rain-affected clash in Auckland.
Elliott held his nerve to see the Black Caps home in the final over after restricting South Africa to 281-5, their target readjusted to 298 in a match reduced to 43-overs-a-side.
But he enjoyed two slices of luck – Quinton de Kock missing a run out chance with 27 runs needed before JP Duminy ran in to substitute fielder Farhaan Behardien, who was about to pouch an Elliott chance with 14 needed off seven balls.
Johannesburg-born Elliott subsequently sent Eden Park into raptures, hoisting Dale Steyn for six off the penultimate ball of the match as New Zealand closed on 299-6 off 42.5 overs, the highest successful run-chase in a World Cup knockout game.
South Africa, who chose to bat, had earlier powered their way to 281-5 as David Miller smote 49 off 18 balls late on, a total of 65 runs coming off the last five overs of the innings.
Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock fell early on as Trent Boult (2-53) took his wicket tally for the tournament to 21, surpassing Geoff Allott’s New Zealand record.
From 31-2 Faf du Plessis (82) dug in to reach his 15th ODI half-century off 85 balls – AB de Villiers (65no) reaching the same landmark rather quicker, off just 32 balls, but only after he’d been dropped by Kane Williamson at short cover.
The pair brought up their hundred stand shortly before a shower forced the players off with the score on 216-3. After a delay lasting almost two hours, Du Plessis fell almost immediately when he gloved Corey Anderson behind – the decision going against him on review.
Miller cut loose immediately, spanking Tim Southee for four boundaries in the 40th over before climbing into successive sixes off Anderson in the next.
The left-hander powered Anderson over long-on for a six in the 43rd and final over to bring up the 50-run partnership before he was caught behind off the next ball, JP Duminy finishing the innings with eight not out off four balls.
McCullum set off like a train in replay, reaching a 22-ball half-century by pulling Steyn for six – and powering New Zealand to 71-0 off five overs in the process.
Spinner Imran Tahir stopped the flow of runs with a maiden and McCullum fell in the next over after hitting four sixes in his 26-ball 59 as he attempted to hit Morne Morkel (3-59) over Steyn at mid-on.
Morkel grabbed a second wicket when Kane Williamson played on before Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill put on 47 in 8.2 overs. The stand was cut off in its prime when Taylor called for an ill-judged single to backward point, from where Tahir swooped and threw to run Guptill out by a distance.
Taylor (30) failed to go on and make amends as he gloved Duminy down the leg-side, de Kock taking a smart leg-side catch to make it 149-4 off 21.4 overs.
With the match in the balance, Elliott and Corey Anderson forged a crucial fifth-wicket stand making the most of a missed run out chance with 94 runs still needed.
Anderson, on 33 at the time, was well short of his ground at the non-striker’s end after being sent back by Elliott only for De Villiers to break the stumps with his hands rather than the ball.
South Africa were left ruing a series of fielding mistakes including a disastrous collision between JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien.
The pair made the most of the let off, improving their partnership to 103 off 16.2 overs before Anderson (58 off 57 balls) top-edged an attempted pull off Morkel.
With 27 needed off 16 balls, Elliott chanced a risky second and should have been run out but this time De Kock failed to gather the ball properly before breaking the stumps.
The miss proved crucial as Elliott kept his composure to strike the winning blow, finishing the match in style to set up a final against either Australia or India on Thursday.
Watch highlights of New Zealand v South Africa throughout the day on Sky Sports World Cup at 10.30am, 12.30pm, 3pm and 7pm. Make sure you stay tuned in for The Verdict after each show.