New Zealand v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, semi-final, Jo'burg October 4, 2009

Vettori's value fully received

How well Vettori performed, and how well his team followed

Like the team that he has fashioned in his image, there is nothing flash about Daniel Vettori. Neither is there any posturing. After leading his injury-ravaged team to the Champions Trophy final, Vettori said the value of captaincy was over-rated. "It's about leading by the performance," he said. "My team will follow if I perform."

How well he performed, and how well his team followed. New Zealand's performance wasn't as grand as Australia's yesterday, and Vettori's own didn't have the epic feel that Ricky Ponting's hundred carried, but the sum of his contribution was far more valuable to his team.

Vettori doesn't stir the senses, but there is air about him. It's of self-assurance and poise. From his fingers, the ball doesn't hiss, spit and turn extravagantly. He doesn't bedazzle or spook his victims. But he is a crafty and subtle bowler, who has been among the most outstanding ODI spinners of his age. Only Muttiah Muralitharan among the current spinners has a better economy rate than him, and in an age of batting orgies, it can be counted by the fingertips how many times he has been taken for more than six runs an over.

And in his relaxed, unfussy style, he was hard to get away again. As always, there were no magic balls, but an honest length and subtle variations in line and trajectory. Vettori was lucky with Umar Akmal's wicket for the umpire failed to see the deflection off the bat. But he got his opposite number with a lovely one: the drift got Younis Khan trying to reach out to dab it on the leg-side, and the turn caught the leading edge. It looked like a soft dismissal, but the mistake had been induced.

Vettori's fast bowlers had started well, denying the batsmen width and keeping them pinned to the crease with bounce. Vettori made sure that the leash was never loosened. Pakistan had been in a similar situation against India earlier in the tournament, but had had found easy runs in the middle over. Only twice did Pakistan manage to touch a run-rate of five, in the first and the 12th overs, and never did they go beyond it. Almost unobtrusively, Vettori managed to get seven overs out of James Franklin as he held the strings at the other end.

With the bat, his contribution was even more precious. Pakistan are the masters of breaking open the wall when they find a little opening, and Ross Taylor had provided them a huge one with a ridiculously ill-chosen cut to a full and hurrying ball from Shahid Afridi whom he had just clubbed for six. It felt that this was the moment Pakistan would siege.

Vettori denied them cussedly. He had chosen to come out ahead of Neil Broom, a specialist batsman, and it was apparent why. He was the man with the nerve. Runs came in little dabs and cuts, but never did they dry up while Vettori was batting. Grant Elliott, playing with a broken and numb thumb, was struggling to put them away but there was never any panic. The asking rate crossed seven, but the batting Powerplay remained.

It wasn't a very memorable 40, but it was an outstanding 75
Vettori on Grant Elliott's innings

When it was taken, Vettori was the one to lead the charge. Saeed Ajmal was swung past mid-on for four, Mohammed Aamer was driven down the ground for another and Naved-ul-Hasan was swung over midwicket. Then, out of nowhere, Elliott found an explosive release and a 16-run over from Umar Gul sealed the match. "It wasn't a very memorable 40," Vettori said about Elliott's innings, "but it was an outstanding 75."

Perhaps the scorecard will tell us the story. That no New Zealand bowler went for over five-and-half an over and none of their batsmen were dismissed in single figures points to the fact the team never the let the match slip away from their grasp. Pakistan under-performed, and as Younis Khan, candid in defeat, admitted, that dropped catch when Elliott was on 42 might haunt him forever. But nothing should not detract from the fact that New Zealand did what they needed to. It was an utterly professional performance that has taken them, the perennial semi-finalists, to one match from their second Champions Trophy win.

It was New Zealand's third successive win, and Vettori spoke about the importance of entering the semi-final on a high. It was also the third time New Zealand had entered the match as the unfancied team and won comfortably. The final will be no different: Australia will be the favourites to win, but New Zealand will not beat themselves.

"I hope we have one more good match is us," Vettori said. That will be an apt finish to a tournament of delightful surprises.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Asif on October 5, 2009, 5:01 GMT

    In my previous comments, I rated him best ODI spinner of this decaded. And, now, we all have to accept, that he is the best All-rounder of the decade, by far. He's been performing pretty well, with both ball and bat consistently for his team. And, frankly I haven't seen best performance playing for his nation, other than his. Truly, incredible and class player. I have also rated him the best player of this DECADE, and, still he is the best for me, by far.

  • Abbas on October 5, 2009, 5:01 GMT

    Time and time again, Champoin Trophy has proved to be waterloo for giants of World cricket.Day before yesterday's match between Pak and NZL proved that one small slip from a player,even an official can cost any team a match.Younas's decision to play despite injury was brave but foolish.The catch he dropped due to broken finger was simples possible and Misbah, or even Fawad Alam could have grabbed that easily and surely it would wrapped Kiwi Innings.Yes, Umar Akmal was unlucky but what about Shahid Afridi,and his xerox copy Imran Nazir, who always disappoint when team badly need them to score?Misbah might be in worst form of his life but he is at least more dependable than these two gamblers of Nation's pride. Anyway,Pakistan team was clueless,as usual in big match and Kiwis played like well oiled,wll programmed autimatic machines.Bravo, Dan, I have never seen you let down your Homeland. Hope for the best in final.If you guys win, it will be great victory of quality over hollow hype.

  • Tim on October 4, 2009, 21:48 GMT

    Dan is the true lionheart of his team - often the glue that binds them together. Thankfully, he is no 'celebrity' cricketer. The quiet, bookish, bearded, professorial exterior belies an incisive cricket brain & a steely determination to consistently give of his best for his team. When you add to this mix the actions of a true sportsman - remembering The Oval 2008, he could have sent Collingwood on his way the other day but chose, instead, to recall him & teach him a much-needed lesson in sporting behaviour - you appreciate why this great star in the Kiwi cricket universe is now properly recognised by a much wider audience. Good Luck, Dan & team, for Monday's final - it would certainly be fitting to add the CT to the richly-deserved Spirit Of Cricket award. Go for it!!

  • Stuart on October 4, 2009, 20:03 GMT

    I am looking forward very much to this all-Antipodean final. Ponting vs Vettori is always going to be interesting, but particularly since the Kiwis are hit by injuries and the Ozzies are somewhat diminished (no Haydos, McGrath, Warne etc. - to list but a few...). There has been a history of antagonism between these 2 countries - the underarm bowled final ball incident for example and you can see that the black caps really like it when they beat the guys from across the Tasman (or should that be 'West Island'?!).

    So, Yes, I'd like to see the underdogs win tomorrow - it'll be fascinating to watch.

  • Keshav on October 4, 2009, 19:33 GMT

    aussielass, who exactly told you Indian fans dismiss NZ. We are always behind them when they are not playing India. Memories of NZ vs Aus quarter final clash in 96 WC in Chennai come to mind when the whole crowd was behind the Kiwis. I will be one dejected and depressed Kiwi fan if they squander this. Go Dan!!!

  • rob on October 4, 2009, 16:35 GMT

    All people who are bad mouthing New Zealand victory are just jealous. There are people here complaining about bad umpiring. But New zealand were vastly superier side compared to pakistan who looked like bunch of amatures. New zealand would have won this match even sooner if umpires weren't intimidated by afridi and company. It was disgraceful behavior from pakistan against the most sporting team in the world.

  • Chs on October 4, 2009, 13:24 GMT

    Kiwis are the good guys of cricket. Nobody, in their right mind, would ever hope to say anything against them. Vettori is a true legend of the game and the foremost personification of sportsman spirit.

  • Ramakrishnan on October 4, 2009, 11:50 GMT

    Congratulations to Daniel Vettori and his team for reaching the finals of the ICC Championship Trophy 2009.. The NZ team fielded excellently during the Pakistan innings and I am sure, the Kiwis will win more matches in future, provided their selectors do not bring back non-performers like Jacob Oram etc.

  • absar on October 4, 2009, 11:16 GMT

    awesome great captaincy but vettori, he leads from the front and shows the way, Pakistan gave the match to the inferior team, but to take it NZ got the guts to take it...THANKS TO M.AMIR & SAEED AJMAL prolific batting...

  • Siba on October 4, 2009, 11:03 GMT

    It's probably integrated in the Kiwis. Never flashy. Even the wily Stephen Fleming was a man of few words. But how well has Dan marshaled his resources. Half the team down with injuries, a quarter sent back, some playing with the pain. No stars, no glitz. Simple professionalism. And how well Dan led, just like he said, from the front. Look at Indian stars. The more I see Indian cricketers, the more I like the Black Caps. Dan right there on the top.

  • No featured comments at the moment.