Auckland, New Zealand: Grant Elliott struck a six off the penultimate to lift New Zealand to a four-wicket win over South Africa in a cliff-hanging match Tuesday which carried it into a Cricket World Cup final for the first time, ending its run of defeats in its six previous semifinals.
New Zealand came to the last over of a rain-shortened match needing 12 runs to reach its Duckworth-Lewis target of 298 from 43 overs, and made it with just one ball left at Eden Park.
“I don't even know where the ball went,” Elliott said after hitting a surprising length ball from Dale Steyn over the long-on boundary.
In Sunday's final, New Zealand will face either Australia or India, who meet on Thursday.
“We've had a good run,” Elliott said. “First final we've been in as a New Zealand team. We're a very level team. We'll just approach it as any other game.”
Earlier, Faf du Plessis made 82, captain AB de Villiers 65 not out, and David Miller 49 from 18 balls as South Africa compiled 281-5 batting first, taking 65 runs from the five overs left to it after the rain.
New Zealand then chased a revised total of 298, and reached that formidable objective with cricket fans of two nations holding their breath. The Kiwis were guided home by Elliott, with 84 not out, and Daniel Vettori, 7 not out.
Asked if he was as calm as he looked, Elliott said, “Probably not. When you've got 40,000 fans screaming at you every ball ...”The South Africans slumped on the field after watching the ball fall into the stands.
“It was an amazing game of cricket,” de Villiers said. “It was the most electric crowd I've ever heard in my life.“I guess the better team came out on top. We gave it our best. We left everything out here on the field. I couldn't ask anything more from my boys.
“We don't go back with any regrets. I guess we had our chances, it's hurting quite a bit. So, it will take us quite a while to get over this.”Brendon McCullum set the vigorous tempo of the New Zealand chase with an innings of 59 from 26 balls which contained eight fours and four sixes. With Martin Guptill, the captain put on 71 in the first five overs, taking the total along almost at a record pace, all the time bringing the winning target more clearly into New Zealand's sights.
But the chase faltered when McCullum was out, and when Kane Williamson was bowled for 6 at 81-2: Morne Morkel conceded 14 runs from his first over, then switched ends and removed McCullum and Williamson in a spell of three overs in which he took 2-11.
No single player commanded the run chase after McCullum was out, which meant it often proceeded in fits and starts, and the required run-rate grew, at times to the visible alarm of home fans.
Martin Guptill, after his record-breaking 237 not out against the West Indies, made 34 before he was wastefully run out in a communication failure with serial offender Ross Taylor, who in turn fell for 30 to a catch, a piece of wicketkeeping brilliance by Quinton de Kock.
Corey Anderson made 58, and paired with Elliott in a partnership of 103 but, perhaps in a measure of the Kiwis' anxiety for the win that would finally break their history of six semifinal defeats, it seemed a work more of desperation than authority.
They moved the total from 149-4 at Taylor's dismissal to 252-5, Elliott reaching a half century from 53 balls, and Anderson from 47 balls with five fours and two sixes. One of the turning points of the match came when de Villiers, who superbly managed his team's defense of its total, using his bowlers on high rotation in one or two overs spells, botched the run out of Anderson.
With the Anderson stranded halfway down the pitch and with the ball almost in his hand, de Villiers stumbled and somersaulted over the stumps, knocking off the bails and saving Anderson, the partnership and New Zealand's hopes.
Anderson was finally out for 58, to the last ball of the 38th over, with New Zealand still needing 46 from five overs. Morne Morkel (3-59) achieved the breakthrough in a superb eighth over in which he conceded only one run.
Luke Ronchi was out for 8 at 269-6 and, out of specialist batsmen, New Zealand passed the chase to Vettori in his 294th one-day international. It came down to 23 runs from the last two overs and another turning point when Elliott was dropped by Farhaad Behardien, who collided in the outfield with JP Duminy.
Finally, 12 runs from the last over: There was a bye, a single, a four from Vettori, another single. And in an action reminiscent of its pool match against Australia on the same ground, when it won with a six by Kane Williamson, Elliott ended the contest with a lofted drive down the ground.
New Zealand's unbeaten progress through the World Cups, though six matches in pool play and a win over the West Indies in a quarterfinal only three days ago, captivated the nation.
Tuesday's semifinal became the focus of all its hopes, that it's record of failures in semifinals would finally end: Schools closed early, and businesses shut their doors to allow pupils and workers to watch the match along with 41,000 at Eden Park.
The rain threatened to cruelly distort the outcome, making New Zealand's target more onerous after the Duckworth-Lewis calculation.Earlier, du Plessis overcame a tentative beginning to lead South Africa's scoring in partnerships of 83 with Rilee Rossouw, and 103 from 72 balls with de Villiers.
Miller's hard-hitting after the rain break turned South Africa's total into one which was almost too much for New Zealand.Trent Boult took 2-53 to remain the tournament's leading wicket-taker.