South Africa falter in thrilling chase
New Zealand 254 for 5 (Papps 67) beat South Africa 249 for 7 (Gibbs 69) by 5 runs
Hershelle Gibbs: got South Africa off to a rollicking start with shots all over the park
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Needing 27 runs off the last over to reach 255 for an improbable victory, Shaun Pollock smashed three sixes, but failed to hit the fourth, and last one, that South Africa so badly desired. It gave New Zealand a 5-run victory, in a game curtailed to 38 overs, that had more thrills than a video store.
Pollock had hobbled off the field without bowling his entire spell, and when he came out to bat with a runner, there was no indication of what was to come. Nicky Boje had just been been run out (203 for 6), and the batsmen to follow couldn't be trusted. At the other end was Ashwell Prince (45*), battling away, scoring boundaries, and doing enough to keep South Africa close, but not enough to win it. And then, with Kyle Mills bowling the last over, Pollock decided to go for it. A six over cover was followed by one over long-off, and one more over long-on. Six were needed off the last ball, and Mills bowled a yorker, ending round three of this engrossing series.
South Africa were going great guns in the hunt for a target. Graeme Smith and Hershelle Gibbs (69) put on a 95-run stand, one in which strokes of every manner were played. For 13 overs, it didn't matter where the ball was bowled, for it would find its way to the boundary, and sometimes, over it. But it ended when Smith (43) was dismissed by Scott Styris. Jacques Kallis settled in and then edged Daniel Vettori to the keeper. At 134 for 2, with 121 needed in 18 overs, it seemed a simple enough task. But Daniel Vettori and Chris Cairns struck, before a needless run-out placed them at a perilous 153 for 6. It was left to Prince and Boje to keep the scoring up and get close to the target, and they put on 50, before Boje's run out brought Pollock to the crease, who nearly pulled off an incredible win.
New Zealand's innings ended in a blaze of sixes, with Styris (45*) and Brendon McCullum (41*) showing everyone why shortened games are such fun. The score read 170 for 5 when McCullum came out to bat - with a grin on his face. Signalling his intent early on, it was a matter of time before he began connecting bat to ball. And when he did, it travelled. Two fours and a six off Graeme Smith began the fireworks. Styris had been calm all along, went into overdrive, and in a rage that lasted four overs, hit four sixes and a four, as bowler after bowler realised there was nowhere to hide. Sixty-nine runs came off those four overs.
But the story of the morning was Michael Papps, who took three games to find his feet. It was worth the wait. His preferred shot was the cut, as Andre Nel and Makhaya Ntini soon found out. Bad balls - and there were plenty - were not spared. When Smith plugged the off side with another fielder, Papps (67) swung Boje to square leg with a sweep that was half-predetermined, half-anticipation, and all power. And with Stephen Fleming going great guns at the other end, he could concentrate on playing himself in, cutting out the risks, and generally driving the bowlers mad.
Only Pollock demanded respect. The batsmen tried cutting, pulling, waltzing down the wicket, and every other trick in the book, but Pollock, bowling on a dime, conceded only eight runs in 5.5 overs, before limping off the field. It was a break South Africa didn't need, for after Fleming (43) was out, the middle order wilted, and the other bowlers couldn't press home the advantage.