Daniel Vettori missed his pull against Dale Steyn then hurtled through for a bye to give Grant Elliott the strike. Next ball Elliott launched New Zealand into the World Cup final. That scamper was, barring a major change of heart, Vettori's last act in limited-overs international cricket on home soil. The previous delivery he had carved Steyn behind point for a boundary just as vital as the one Elliott struck. He is writing one heck of a farewell script.Vettori has not made any official announcements on his future, but a career in coaching in the IPL, where he has already started with Royal Challengers Bangalore, and the Big Bash looms. Do not be surprised if he ends up back with New Zealand one day. For now, though, he has one more match - the grandest of them all at the MCG on Sunday - in which to loop down his left-arm spin and maybe squirt some vital runs.
When Elliott struck the winning six, Vettori let out a rare show of raw emotion. There has been a quiet efficiency about his work at this tournament - during which he has taken 15 wickets, including his 300th in ODIs, at 18.80 with an economy rate of 3.98 - but this was not a moment for holding back. Seventeen years after making his debut as a bespectacled teenager against England, he was part of the nation's finest cricketing hour.
"His last game on New Zealand soil, so to be out there at the end and be as instrumental and calm as he was under pressure, I couldn't think of two better blokes to have out at that wily old age of 36," Brendon McCullum said. "You can't buy that sort of experience."
Mike Hesson added: "Dan loves the game and knows the history of the game. He's a huge part of this team, since he's come back in he's added a lot of calmness to the dressing room. He's a joker at times but certainly adds a lot of calmness and to have him out there we were certainly confident."Vettori was absent from the field towards the end of South Africa's innings with a stiff back, having bowled nine overs for 46, but McCullum was convinced he has one more game in him. He will be vital, too, at the MCG against whichever side New Zealand face as both Australia and India possess vast batting depth. Vettori has previously said how he enjoys operating on larger grounds, rather than the generally short boundaries of New Zealand, and they do not come much bigger than Melbourne.
"A massive factor depends on who we play as to what role of attack or defence he has, but for overall experience he's been around half his life playing for New Zealand," McCullum said. "It would be the ideal way to send him off and he has that real bit between his teeth."He had to overcome quite a bit to get back up and represent New Zealand. Last night out there at the end is a memory he'll never forget and now he's got one potential fairytale finish left."