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March 25, 2011
At the centre of a magnificent fielding performance that won New Zealand their quarter-final against South Africa were two moments. The first was an exceptional running catch on the boundary by Jacob Oram that saw the back of an unperturbed and ominous looking Jacques Kallis. The other was Martin Guptill's run-out of AB de Villiers, a few overs later and just two balls after JP Duminy's dismissal, in a short passage of play in which was crystallised South Africa's collapse.
Kallis was progressing in typically Kallis-like fashion on 47 when, in the 25th over, he pulled Tim Southee towards deep midwicket. Oram, Man of the Match for his 4 for 39, ran to his left and back towards the boundary rope, and with a little skip, held on to the catch face-high, still running. It looked far more impressive live than on the TV screens. It was the kind of catch that wins a quarter-final.
Oram's only thought when he saw the shot was to run. "The beauty of it was that it wasn't in the air that long. If it was a real skier where I had 5 or 10 seconds to think about it, I probably would've got a little bit scared underneath it.
"My only thought was just run, because he did hit it so well. What helped me was just the angle the ball was coming at; with a pull shot like that, it almost curls back into the angle I was running on. So I was running back and across. Thankfully I am 6'6". I replaced Kane Williamson out there who is about 4'6"; maybe it would have been a one-bounce four if he was out there."
Guptill's intervention came from midwicket, exploiting a tiny moment's hesitation between Faff du Plessis and de Villiers. The catch and Guptill's effort, which ended the most fluent knock of the match, were, Oram said, moments that turned the entire game.
"My catch [was a turning point], and I'm not just pointing that out because it's me, but because it broke a partnership that looked like it was starting to build. And the second moment which galvanised us to another level, and put the skids on them, was Martin Guptill running out AB de Villiers. That just seemed to make us all grow a foot taller, and you could see them getting a little worried."
There was a sustained level of excellence in the field throughout the match, from both sides. Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, thought the fielding allowed them to keep the pressure up.
"We got a little bit of luck with the Hashim Amla wicket, and there was a great piece of work with Guptill running out de Villiers," Vettori said. "Those two things, combined with some great bowling and great fielding, allowed us to attack the whole game. The way we bowled and particularly the way we fielded, led by Guptill, probably got us through to the victory."
Another semi-final spot for a side that was stuttering until recently may have surprised others, but not Oram, who believes this is not the end of New Zealand's run. "Did we ever think we could make it to the semis? Of course we did and we're not finishing here, hopefully. We didn't come across here to defeat the minnows in our pool and then lose the quarter-final and go home. Why not go on and win the semi-final and take on the winner of the other semi in Mumbai in a week's time?"
If that eventuality does occur, Oram wouldn't mind facing Pakistan. "That's not because we're scared of India," he said. "It's because we've played Pakistan in a six-match series at home and we've defeated them in Pallekele. So we know them very well, even though they defeated us at home. But if it's India, bring them on as well."
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