New Zealand v South Africa, World Cup 2015, 1st semi-final, Auckland March 25, 2015

Melbourne-bound, this time with Elliott

34

Melbourne, here I come © Getty Images

When New Zealand made a trip to the MCG in October to get a feel for the venue as part of their World Cup preparation, there was a notable absentee from the group. Grant Elliott was not among the 20 who tried to absorb the ground in the hope they would return.

They have made it back, for their first World Cup final, in the most thrilling of ways, and Elliott was the man to carry them there with one of the finest closing innings in one-day history. "He did say when I saw him at the end, 'does this mean I get to come to Melbourne?'" Brendon McCullum said. But despite not being part of the New Zealand squad until the World Cup 15 was named, McCullum insisted it was not a last-minute change of heart.

"I'm not sure he was a bolter, he'd always been in the frame," he said. "In the Champions Trophy semi-final against Pakistan he was calm under pressure and stepped up on the big occasion. He has spent some time out but by no means was he out altogether. Domestic performances banged the door down. He grabbed the opportunity and reminded last night why he is never a guy to shut the door on."

As New Zealand awoke on Wednesday - or at least those who had managed to sleep, which did not include coach Mike Hesson, awoke - that innings from Elliott, and the entire semi-final which will go down as one of the great World Cup matches, was the talk of the nation. Radio, TV and newspapers could not get enough. Adorning the front page of the New Zealand Herald was Elliott, arms aloft, under the headline "The final dream…the six that raised the roof."

In coffee shops and on the streets, cricket was being talked about, people trying to make sense of everything that had happened. "Were you at the game?" was a common question. It will be one of those matches where the 40,000 present at Eden Park swells to many more in years to come.

Elliott, a self-confessed quiet man who does not like the spotlight, was taking it in his stride as players milled around their Auckland hotel awaiting departure to Melbourne. "Grant is pretty calm," Hesson said.

A case of the calm after the storm following the heady closing exchanges when the match swung one way then the other. "We were in two separate areas, we didn't want to move towards the end," Hesson said. "Half of us were upstairs and half downstairs keeping in touch on a walkie-talkie. When it happened we just jumped up, hugged anyone in sight, yelled and ran downstairs as quick as we could."

The presence of Elliott in the middle made Hesson and McCullum believe they were never out of the contest. "There were times we were behind the eight-ball," Hesson said. "To be fair to Morne Morkel he bowled a great over in the 38th when he got Corey out and the rate went big again. That was probably a time when I thought we were in trouble, but never thought we were out of it."

McCullum, watching on after his 26-ball 59 put New Zealand ahead of the rate, said: "I was pretty calm for most of it, then towards end with no more part to play I had immense faith but it was always an unknown. It took something special to get across the line and Grant was the man to do it."

When Anderson departed, 46 were needed off five overs. Elliott then put AB de Villiers over deep midwicket, but still it came down to 23 off two and then 18 off eight balls before Elliott cracked Morkel through the covers and was dropped next ball in the deep. Both Elliott and Vettori were alert in running to the wicketkeeper before the final blow.

"Calmness under pressure in the middle, that's where you need that experience and a guy who can pace a chase," Hesson said. "He's done everything and more than we could have asked. There were a few doubters early, but then he got that hundred in Dunedin and a few other pretty damn good innings. I think most people realised he's a pretty good cricketer."

After the immediate outpouring of emotion, from the players and the crowd, the team stayed behind at Eden Park, spending time with the South Africans before returning to their hotel and continuing to reflect on what they had achieved.

"We stood around and the guys gave their thoughts," Hesson said. "Heartfelt emotion, what it meant for the guys to get to where we have done. We've got a chance to put on good show on Sunday, and we'll prepare for that, but also realise we've achieved something pretty special.

"It's a really special time for everyone involved. We are all cricket lovers, involved in the game for a very long time and have loved it since we were kids. There's a huge amount of pride in being part of a team to make a World Cup final."

And this time Elliott will be on the plane with them to Melbourne.

Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anurag on March 26, 2015, 21:48 GMT

    Indian fan here.....my support is whole-heartedly with the Kiwis. Not only have they played superb cricket in the world cup, their brand of cricket is without any dramatics and any other aides that Aussies rely on, like sledging, etc. Secondly, what Elliott did in the semi-final to give a hand to Steyn while he was down, really moved me. The Blackcaps are true gentlemen and uphold the spirit of cricket. Go KIWIS....best of luck for the Final.....you fully deserve it.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2015, 14:17 GMT

    Goodluck to him and the NZ

  • Dummy4 on March 25, 2015, 22:41 GMT

    @VIJYES YECHURI... You can't say New Zealand was worse in the field. Yes they missed a lot of their chances, not to mention the plum lbw when faf was on 35, which I believe should have been given - they should have reviewed, as I believe that was our biggest missed opportunity, followed by the man Kane also putting down ABd. But other than that, their fielding was actually really good. So was the Saffas, but their mistakes were more glaringly obvious to see. A missed runnout when Cory was not in the frame. Another missed runout of Elliot. A dropped catch of Elliot. Because what those two players brought to the table for New Zealand they were crucial.

    Sure the you can talk about the what ifs. And sure they would have changed the game - but for both teams equally I believe, because they both missed crucial oportunities. If you say they took them and take out the rain, I think still think it would have gone down to the wire - such was the nature and intent of the two sides.

  • Dummy4 on March 25, 2015, 21:37 GMT

    People keep mentioning DL system. Please remember South Africa chose to bat knowing rain was potentially there. They chose to bat as their chasing record hasn't been great of late. Also, DL has affected all nations at some point in time. It can be harsh at times.

    Also factor in this. Devillers could have got out with 12 overs to go, South Africa could have collapsed.

    So please stop with the ifs and buts. What if Taylor hadn't run Guptill out, what if Steyn dropped McCullum what if what if what if. What if's don't win you cricket games, the players do!

  • Julian on March 25, 2015, 21:08 GMT

    Great game. Yes there were possible imperfections because of using Duckworth Lewis, but New Zealand needed to score more runs than South Africa had in the same number of overs. Yes there were fielding errors on both sides. But this wasn't a dress rehearsal, a league game. It was all or nothing. It went to the penultimate ball. There was tension all the way. Both sides left everything (and more) out on the pitch, and neither deserved to lose. I fear the final will now be a let-down, But I'm backing the Kiwis to win, just as I'm backing the continued involvement of the Associates in this tournament. It's a cup competition and anything can happen on the day. And that's the way cup competitions should be.

  • Julian on March 25, 2015, 20:57 GMT

    Great game. Yes there were possible imperfections because of using Duckworth Lewis, but New Zealand needed to score more runs than South Africa had in the same number of overs. Yes there were fielding errors on both sides. But this wasn't a dress rehearsal, a league game. It was all or nothing. It went to the penultimate ball. There was tension all the way. Both sides left everything (and more) out on the pitch, and neither deserved to lose. I fear the final will now be a let-down, But I'm backing the Kiwis to win, just as I'm backing the continued involvement of the Associates in this tournament. It's a cup competition and anything can happen on the day. And that's the way cup competitions should be.

  • Jim on March 25, 2015, 20:54 GMT

    It might be true that SA's score was undercooked by D/L. But NZ had a target, and timed the chase accordingly. If the target had been 330, who's to say they couldn't have chased that too.

  • Jim on March 25, 2015, 20:22 GMT

    @VijesYechuri, this was a WC semi-final. NZ chased 300 in 43 overs. Against arguably the world's best bowling attack. And that was horrible? I don't get it.

  • Marty Sellwood on March 25, 2015, 20:14 GMT

    It was a cracker of a game although agree quality of fielding from both teams not up to usual standards at times as outlined. Guptill catch was brilliant as was some of SA infielding given slipperly conditions no doubt nerves and ocassion played a part as can happen in games of this nature. The point some are missing is forget D/L agree it is hard to say what us fair but it is what it is. As a NZ cricket tragic I was proud of the way we competed to the death and the result was a bonus in the end we won it and deserved it the same SA would have if they defended the last over, both teams can take pride of the way they fought to the final ball - we dont need untidy personal sledging, the contest was worthy of the ocassion hopefully next semi will be the same

  • Dummy4 on March 25, 2015, 20:05 GMT

    It was an exciting and tension filled match... ICC please take note... Scores of 350+ are NOT needed to create an expectation of excitement. Perhaps try something like: After the 'compulsory' power play & until the end of the 'batting' power play 1 fielder MUST be in a stationary catching position, if in front of the wicket no more than 15 metres from the middle stump.' . . . This would make batting teams consider how soon to take their power play & force the fielding side to have less fielding positions filled.

  • No featured comments at the moment.