The dream is over. In the closest match of the World Cup so far, New Zealand repeated their 2015 semi-final by knocking out a brave South Africa with just 3 balls and 4 wickets to spare, in a match that South Africa was winning for most of the match until Colin de Grandhomme launched with a late 60 off 47 balls and Kane Williamson just refused to get out, in a lone hand of 106 not out off 138. Nobody else did anything of note, but it was enough, just barely, for the Kiwis to sneak over the line. When South Africa batted, they were their own worst enemy, failing to ever get away, in spite of not losing wickets. Hashim Amla was the worst offender, scoring 55 off 83 painful deliveries. He passed 8,000 runs, the fastest in terms of matches and second-fastest in terms of innings but there was nothing fast about this innings. It wasn’t until the very end, when Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller figured out how to hit the ball that South Africa put on any kind of total, but 241 never looked like enough. They should have managed 280, but nervous batting and a lack of risk-taking hurt them tremendously.
It was a match pitting 3rd ranked New Zealand against 4th ranked South Africa, two evenly matches teams in what should have been a close contest, and it was, on the scoreboard, but in their minds it was top of the table New Zealand against a South African team about to be knocked out, and it was that which spelled the result. New Zealand weren’t great and they didn’t dominate at all, but they had the mental fortitude to pull themselves over the line. Kane Williamson provided a great captain’s knock to pull his team over the line, only just. It is this kind of performance that will serve them well come the knockouts.
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Five Things We Learned:
(1) If only A B de Villiers was there
South Africa would probably be unbeaten to this point if the great ABD was there. Every match was close, this one the closest. The fact that he was available and was ignored makes his absence all the more painful. It’s the difference between victory and defeat, and the difference between 1 win in 6 or winning all 6. Maybe they’ll learn something from this.
(2) Kane Williamson is one of the very best
Seeing wickets falling all around him, most players would have given up, but not Kane Williamson, who dug his heels in and refused to give up. The run rate required got out of hand too, but he refused to take risks, allowing Colin de Grandhomme at the other end to do it for him. It was a perfect innings, one that very few players could manage.
(3) Hashim Amla is way out of form
Sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t do a player justice, but Hashim Amla’s 55 off 83 was appalling to watch. Every moment he looked nervous, every hit edgy, and he missed so many bad balls it wasn’t funny. Yet, without A B de Villiers to replace him, South Africa were too nervous to drop him. The team would have been better off if he had been out cheaply and let someone like Rassie van der Dussen bat in his place. Better yet, he shouldn’t have played.
(4) Lockie Ferguson isn’t bad
He never looks like doing much and doesn’t have a cool name like Boult, but Lockie Ferguson has taken a lot of wickets in this World Cup and he has a pretty good record overall. He looked bad when he bowled but snuck in a couple of good ones in amongst the rubbish, and it was enough of a surprise to clean bowl the captain and take two other wickets to be the pick of the bowlers. Never has a bowler looked this bad while doing this well. Well, rarely at least. It almost seemed to be a plan too, to tempt the batsmen into taking risky shots off his many terrible balls. He conceded 59 runs too, but should have conceded 80 or 90, but for the fear from the South African batsmen, especially Amla, that they might get out to him. He was the perfect bowler for the circumstances.
(5) Colin de Grandhomme can hit them big
Your team has just lost its 5th wicket, after finally putting together a 50 run partnership but your captain Kane Williamson has scored most of the runs. You need 105 off your last 17 overs at a run rate of 6.2 when the team run rate is only 4.2. Everyone after him is a bunny. The pitch is hard to score on. But Colin de Grandhomme made it look easy. This wasn’t big hitting when it didn’t matter – this was controlled power when New Zealand were losing. 5 fours and 2 powerful 6s pushed New Zealand ahead and by the time he was out with two overs to go the team needed just 14 runs to win, and it was close enough for Kane Williamson to get them home. It was a very hard ask, but de Grandhomme is the guy to do it. Not many other players could win the game from there, but Colin can.