New Zealand players celebrate as JP Duminy (center) was cleaned up by Nathan McCullum © Getty Images
In ICC World Cup 2011 held in the subcontinent, New Zealand upset the apple-cart and defeated a pillaging South African setup at Mirpur in a quarter-final encounter. Bharath Ramaraj rekindles fond memories from the see-saw game.
In ICC World Cup 2011, when underdogs New Zealand took on hot favourites South Africa in Mirpur, few expected the un-fancied New Zealand side to win. They were the virtual outsiders who were expected to reach the quarter-final stage and bow out of the tournament. But, by playing with unbridled enthusiasm and self-belief, New Zealand flagged down South Africa to reach the semi-final stage of the tournament.
South Africa had come into the game against New Zealand on the back of defeating eventual champions, India during the group stage of the World Cup. In a high voltage contest with Indian fans screaming every-time, an Indian cricketer clambered a towering six or took a wicket, they reduced them to pin drop silence by beating them in a humdinger. Unfortunately, in the quarter-final it was back to square-one for South Africa, as they lost the game and the chokers tag came back to haunt them.
On a slow track, New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat. It was the controversial batsman Jesse Ryder who stood toe-to-toe against South African bowlers to compile an enterprising knock of 83 runs. The only other batsman to stand up and be counted for the Kiwis was their key player, Ross Taylor. He accrued 43 runs.
South African bowlers including the quickies, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn shared the wickets between them. They struck to their old stratagem against New Zealand of bowling back of a length and not giving the batsmen any width to free their arms. This is a strategy that has worked for them against New Zealand ever since they came back from their isolation in 1991. However, the fact that surprised one-and-all was South African spinners, Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir too snaring wickets.
Now, South Africa in the last two decades have rarely produced fine spinners. But when Tahir got a few to skid off the surface to trouble New Zealand batsmen with his deceptive googly, it was a strange sight to see.
With New Zealand ending up with just 221 runs on the board, South Africa were the red hot favourites to chase it down. At two for 108 after the completion of 24 overs, it seemed like South Africa were cruising towards a well-deserved win. Just like red-lightning strikes though, the game suddenly changed on its head with the veteran Jacques Kallis being caught by the tall all-rounder, Jacob Oram.
It was a catch that was a shining example of true excellence. Kallis played a full-blooded hook shot and Oram had to showcase tremendous judgment to take a running catch at mid-wicket. Once New Zealand took the wicket of Kallis, the fire in their belly never seemed to extinguish. Fulcrum of South Africa’s batting line-up, AB de Villiers was run out and a shaky looking JP Duminy didn’t last long either.
It was left to Faf du Plessis to shepherd the innings for South Africa. He was already known for his fortitude and for displaying calm head on shoulders under pressure cooker situations, while playing for Lancashire on tricky wickets. But playing at the highest level and that too in a World Cup was a different matter altogether.
A dejected South African skipper Graeme Smith, after the shocking loss to New Zealand on March 25, 2011 © Getty Images
Poor South African fans, their hearts must have pumped and jiggered against rib-cages and fingernails chomped every second, as that dreaded chokers tag was likely going to haunt them again. Du Plessis though, did try to make a good fist of it. As New Zealand bowlers especially, their captain, Vettori and Oram respectively, took pace off the ball, it became a mighty struggle for him. With wickets falling at other end like nine pins though, it was time for him to take charge of the situation and change gears. He launched a hefty blow that soared deep into the orbit for a six over extra cover off Oram’s bowling. Incidentally, Oram had dropped a caught and bowled chance, the ball before. However, in an attempt to go for another big heave, du Plessis could only hole out to Tim Southee. It was the last nail in the coffin for South Africa, as they were left with only the last pair Morkel and Tahir at the crease.
With left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock snaring the wicket of last man, Tahir, New Zealand had turned the tables around and beaten the South African side. It was yet again a case of despair for South Africa in a major event. The sheer disbelief on captain Graeme Smith’s face said it all. Oram for his splendid catch and four wickets was justifiably declared Man of the Match.
New Zealand 221 for 8 in 50 overs (Jesse Ryder 83, Ross Taylor 43; Morne Morkel 3 for 46) beat South Africa 172 in 43.2 overs (Jacques Kallis 47, Faf du Plessis 36; Jacob Oram 4 for 39) by 49 runs.
Man of the Match: Jacob Oram
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)