One of the pre- tournament favourites New Zealand scripted history by making their maiden cricket World Cup final appearance with a stunning four-wicket win in a nerve-wrecking last-four clash against the formidable South Africa, finally shedding the tag of perennial under-achievers in the mega event. Chasing a stiff target of 298 runs in 43 overs under the Duckworth/Lewis rule in the rain-curtailed game, New Zealand crossed the line when Grant Elliot (84) smashed Dale Steyn over long-on for a six with just one ball to spare in a thrilling showdown.
Needing 12 to win off six balls, Vettori found the fence to bring the equation down to five from two balls, before Elliot hit the winning runs as the Eden Park broke into wild celebrations. The result meant the perennial choker’s tag would continue to haunt South Africa and they would once again look for soul searching.
Since the inaugural edition in 1975, New Zealand have reached the semifinals of the showpiece event six times, but failed to clear the penultimate hurdle on all the occasions. However, they looked determined to script history today and despite being set a daunting target, the Kiwis never gave up and were spurred on by a vociferous home crowd.
Earlier, David Miller had blazed his way to a 18-ball 49 as the Proteas set a difficult target. Opting to bat, South Africa notched up 281 for five, but the target was revised under the Duckworth/Lewis method after seven overs each were deducted per side following a two-hour rain interruption.
Skipper AB de Villiers made an unbeaten 65 off 45 balls,while Faf du Plessis top-scored with a 107-ball 82, but it wasMiller’s innings that gave Proteas the much-needed impetuous towards the end. In reply, the New Zealanders were off to a flying start with skipper Brendon McCullum going hammer and tongs at the South African pacers, especially Steyn.