ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
New Zealand v South Africa, 3rd quarter-final, World Cup 2011, Mirpur
Patience pays off for New Zealand
New Zealand shed some of the flashiness that usually adorns their batting, persevered with the ball, and ultimately reaped the rewards, albeit with a helping hand from South Africa
March 25, 2011
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Matches: New Zealand v South Africa at Dhaka
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
One of the greatest virtues of patience is that its rewards are often not immediately apparent. While probably nobody can ever fully grasp why what happens with South Africa happened again on Friday night in Mirpur, what New Zealand pulled off is easier to understand.
New Zealand's problems, well-documented as they are, revolve predominantly around a gifted but hasty top order. They have the shots. They are just too eager to show them off, flashing them around like hip-hoppers do their bling on MTV. Others don't even have the shots.
But as Jesse Ryder revealed in an interview with ESPNcricinfo before the quarter-final, John Wright has been stressing to them the importance of patience. Wright seems like the kind of man who would know about that, looking, as he does, every inch the folk singer who has seen better venues and better days, or even the careworn professor whose words only sink in over much time and then they really stay sunk. And he did work for five years as coach of India.
Ryder has clearly picked up something from the "six-and-out" net sessions Wright has put in place in this World Cup. He is such a beautiful batsman to watch because he makes every stroke look so different to those of other batsmen, and he doesn't move like any of them; best of all, he looks untaught.
His innings was such a work of unrushed regality, it felt a little decadent; him taking his time and enjoying himself, while things slowly went wrong around him. He actually seemed like one of those old, benign monarchs, whose brasher, flasher days have been left behind for something more considered, circumspect and tolerant.
The powers were still there, like the stand-up drive through extra cover that brought up a thousand one-day runs, or the whiplash drive off Morne Morkel that went clean through short cover. Even the inside-edge past his stumps to start him off carried some notion of unconcerned class, and this was all on a surface not made for scoring briskly. He just chose to use his powers far more discreetly, for better causes. A forgotten innings, Daniel Vettori called it later; an evocative and apt description. It set up the match, because at 16 for 2, there wasn't one.
"Now you look back on the match and realise it [Ryder's] was the highest score by a long distance," Vettori said. "We were 2 for 16, so we'll look back on that and look at it as the winning of the game; Jesse reining his game in a little bit and allowing himself to get in. Eighty-three off 121 balls; it was the catalyst that won us the game."
What sealed it was what New Zealand do, and have long done, on the field. Their bling is far better utilised and worthier here; the dives, the low-fives, the stinging direct hits, the back-handed flicks all serve a far greater purpose than the big shots. Watching them go about fielding is not much different to watching the NBA's basketball players in that it represents an acme of natural, athletic grace. It looks good there.
That makes up, as it did tonight, another bowler in their unit altogether. In Jacob Oram's catch and Martin Guptill's run-out of AB de Villiers, it brought them two wickets, to say nothing of the number of runs their ground fielding cut off.
There was patience everywhere else, particularly in the bowling of Tim Southee, Oram and Nathan McCullum. They just kept at it, Southee and Oram probing fuller lengths for longer than they might normally and waiting for batsmen to crack. Even Ross Taylor's 43 earlier was made with the greatest restraint, waiting, waiting and waiting some more before trying to go for it. At the time, both the dismissals of Ryder and Taylor felt like they had cost New Zealand, like they had been betrayed by their own endurance and lashed out.
But there is only so much patience can explain and bring. It cannot explain how, just last October, New Zealand were being whitewashed at this very ground by Bangladesh, were then blanked by India and lost a series at home to Pakistan, and are now in the semi-finals of the World Cup, for a remarkable sixth time.
For 75 overs on Friday, all that patience looked to be worth nothing. What happened after that you'll have to ask a South African. The chances are they might not be able to explain it either.
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