In Focus – A fitting finale awaits at the MCG

  So it all comes down to this. It will be the Trans-Tasman rivals and tournament co-hosts Australia and New Zealand who will lock horns in the final of the 2015 World Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.

  It is a clash that promises to be a real cracker, as games between these two sides usually are. Just a month ago, they played out a thrilling low-scorer in a World Cup group match at Eden Park in Auckland with New Zealand scampering home by one wicket.

  This has been the only defeat for Australia in the tournament, whereas New Zealand have so far been unbeaten, winning eight straight games.

  However, New Zealand played all of their matches at home, where most of the grounds are evidently much smaller than the MCG. The final will be the first time in the tournament that they will be playing in Australia.

  In fact, it has been more than six years since New Zealand last played an ODI in Australia – which is a real shame. Furthermore, the two teams have not played a bilateral series in the last five years, with their only encounters coming in the 2011 and 2015 World Cups and the 2013 Champions Trophy.

Cricket WCup New Zealand       Australian captain Michael Clarke and his New Zealand counterpart Brendon McCullum during a photoshoot on the eve of the World Cup final (source – yahoo.com/gettyimages)

  This dearth of fixtures between the neighbours has been hugely disappointing, especially given the fact that they have provided some compelling ODI cricket over the years.

  The Chappell-Hadlee Trophy – which used to be an annual ODI series of at least three matches until five years back – will also be at stake on Sunday along with the World Cup trophy. The current holders are New Zealand, who won it in the above-mentioned game earlier in the tournament.

  Speaking of the ground size, a lot of talk has been going on with many predicting that New Zealand will find it difficult to adjust in Melbourne, especially since the Black Caps have not played here of late.

  But one look at New Zealand’s recent form will suggest that they will be far from intimidated. They have been in remarkable form for over a year now and their winning run in the World Cup was largely expected. Australia start as favourites, but only slightly. 

History and conditions favour Australia

  Australia will be playing their seventh World Cup final – no other team has played more than three – while New Zealand will be playing their first. Australia have won four titles and if they win on Sunday, they will achieve an amazing record of winning five World Cups in five different continents.

  Furthermore, Australia have won 24 out of their last 26 ODIs at home and enjoy a 14-4 record over New Zealand at the MCG. Head-to-head in the World Cup, they have won six matches to New Zealand’s three. 

  Australia have also won their last six ODIs at the MCG. New Zealand however have won three of their last five ODIs here, including the most recent one. But this most recent match came back in 2008-09, which means that Australia will be much more conversant with the conditions.

  The last time Australia lost the final of a major ICC ODI tournament was back in 1996 when they lost to Sri Lanka. Since then, they have won three World Cups and two Champions Trophies.

Road to the final

zzsae     Australia and New Zealand played out a thriller in the group stage at Auckland last month, with the hosts winning by one wicket (source – gettyimages)

  Many were tipping Australia and New Zealand to be the two finalists before the tournament began, and both the teams proved over the course of the last six weeks that they were indeed the two best units in the fray.

  Australia started by easily dispatching England at the MCG, before their match with Bangladesh at Brisbane was abandoned. After a two-week break, they narrowly lost to New Zealand at Auckland despite having to defend a low total.

  They ended the group stage with three powerful wins over Afghanistan at Perth, Sri Lanka at Sydney and Scotland at Hobart. In the quarterfinal at Adelaide, they overcame some spirited Pakistani bowling to chase a moderate total before scoring a convincing win over India in the semifinal at Sydney.

  New Zealand resoundingly beat Sri Lanka in the tournament opener at Christchurch. A scratchy win against Scotland at Dunedin followed, after which they mauled England at Wellington. Then came the thrilling win over Australia at Auckland.

  Afghanistan too were easily beaten at Napier, but the Black Caps had to sweat before seeing off Bangladesh at Hamilton. In the quarterfinal at Wellington, the West Indies were put to the sword while in the semifinal at Auckland, South Africa were pipped in an epic contest.

Players to watch out for

  Mitchell Starc has been outstanding throughout the tournament, collecting 20 wickets at an average of just 10.20 so far. The left-arm quickie has already shown his class against the Kiwis, having taken 6/28 in the Auckland game. His potent yorkers especially at the death makes him the biggest threat to the New Zealand batsmen. 

  New Zealand’s answer to Starc is left-armer Trent Boult, who is one of the best swing bowlers in the world at the moment. He is the tournament’s highest wicket-taker with 21 scalps at 15.76. Boult ran through the Australians to finish with a match-winning 5/27 in the Auckland game, and he will no doubt relish the prospect of having another go at them.

   Captain Brendon McCullum has been one of the biggest factors in New Zealand’s recent resurgence. His buccaneering hitting at the top has given New Zealand many a positive start, none more so than the 26-ball 59 he scored in the semifinal against South Africa. He has treated the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn with disdain, and will be gunning for glory yet again.

Cricket World Cup    Trent Boult is the tournament’s highest wicket-taker, followed by Australia’s Mitchell Starc. Boult took 5/27 in the group match against Australia (source – ap news/ross setford)

  Steve Smith has had a magnificent summer and has established himself as Australia’s middle-order lynchpin. He enjoys batting at number three, and his rich vein of form just does not look like stopping. His chanceless 105 in the semifinal against India laid the foundation of a winning total, and his team will expect him to repeat the dose in the final as well.

  The swansong men

  Australian captain Michael Clarke and New Zealand veteran Daniel Vettori will both be playing their last ODI match. While Clarke announced the news a day ago, Vettori had made it clear before the tournament that he will hang his boots at the end of it.

  Clarke has been an inspirational leader, both on and off the field, in what has been a testing summer for Australian cricket. He will be looking to become the fourth Australian after Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting to lift the World Cup.

  He will also personally look to deliver in his last match, having enjoyed a healthy ODI career since he debuted in 2002-03. He has scored just one fifty in six outings in the tournament, and the final will be the perfect stage to get a big one.

  Bespectacled left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori has been a constant in the New Zealand side ever since he made his debut back in 1996-97. He fought back injury to play in the tournament, and has performed splendidly with 15 wickets at an economy rate of 3.81.

  He will enjoy bowling at the MCG, where the vastness gives him an incentive to be more attacking. He sparked off Australia’s collapse in the group game, and there is no reason why he cannot replicate that in the final.

 Second World Cup final at the G

  The MCG will host the World Cup final for the second time. The first instance was in 1992, when Pakistan triumphed over England in front of 87,812 people. This remains the highest officially recorded attendance for an ODI match, and this number may well be surpassed on Sunday.

  While Australia will of course have their partisan home crowd cheering for them, New Zealand will not be too short of support either with a large number of Kiwis and neutrals expected in the stands. The pitch is expected to be conducive to the batsmen while it will also have some bounce and carry.

  It remains to be seen whether the toss proves to be a big factor or not. In most of the matches in Australia in this World Cup, the team batting first has seemed to have a clear advantage. In the four matches at the MCG, the team batting first has won handsomely with the scores reading 342-231, 307-177, 332-240 and 302-193.

 Prediction

  While the heart is firmly with New Zealand, the mind is a bit tilted towards Australia. Whoever the winner may be, here’s hoping for a memorable match to mark the end of what has been an enjoyable tournament. 

Specials – Australia’s semi-final heroes over the years

  Australia are set to play their seventh World Cup semifinal when they take on India at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday. The winner of this much-awaited encounter will face New Zealand in the grand final at Melbourne.

  The Australians have contested six semifinals till date, and not once have they finished on the losing side. The closest they have come to a World Cup semifinal defeat was in 1999, when they sneaked out a famous tie against South Africa to go through. With five wins and a tie, they remain the only team yet to lose a semifinal in the premier limited-overs tournament.

  The semifinal is arguably the toughest game to play in any tournament, and over the years Australia have been fortunate to have players who soaked in the pressure and revelled performing on the big stage.

  Here is a look at the men who delivered when it mattered most and who are responsible for Australia’s impressive semifinal record:-

Gary Gilmour (1975)

  The left-arm fast bowler Gary Gilmour was brought in for the semifinal against hosts England at Headingley after being overlooked in the group stage. On a green and damp wicket, he produced a memorable spell of seam and swing bowling to dash English hopes of making to the final.

  Australian captain Ian Chappell had no hesitation in putting England to bat, and it was not long before Gilmour set the tone. He began by trapping the dangerous Dennis Amiss plumb in front and followed it by castling Barry Wood with a yorker. The score read 11/2 and this was just the beginning.

  Tony Greig became Gilmour’s third victim as he perished to a brilliant catch by Rodney Marsh behind the wicket. Frank Hayes, Keith Fletcher and Alan Knott too did not last long, all of them getting out LBW. England were reeling at 36/6 with Gilmour bagging all six wickets and none of the batsmen entering double figures. His outstanding analysis of 12-6-14-6 was a new ODI record.

zzgart      Gary Gilmour’s all-round show in the 1975 semifinal helped Australia to beat England in a low-scorer (source – sportskeeda.com)

  England marginally recovered to reach a total of 93, but the conditions were still heavily in favour of the bowlers. The English pacemen showed that they were no less effective and destroyed the Australian top order, leaving the score at a worrisome 39/6.

  Remarkably, Gilmour was not done yet. He came out at the fall of the sixth wicket and duly smashed an unbeaten 28 at a run a ball, including five boundaries, to steer Australia to victory. He shared an unbroken 55-run stand with Doug Walters to ensure that there was no further embarrassment. His performance remains one of the best all-round displays in the World Cup.

Steve Waugh (1987 and 1999)

  Allan Border’s Australians faced a challenging semifinal against Pakistan at Lahore in 1987. After electing to bat, the top order collectively produced a solid effort with David Boon top-scoring with 65. At the start of the 50th over, the score was 249/8 – not exactly threatening – and a final push was much needed.

  Steve Waugh was on strike, and the left-arm pace of an off-colour Saleem Jaffar provided him with the perfect opportunity of finishing the innings with a flourish. He started off with a six to put pressure on the bowler. He then followed it with 4,2,2,0 and 4 to end up with 32* from 28 balls. This last over fetched 18 runs – which was exactly Australia’s victory margin.

  Twelve years later, Waugh was captaining Australia and after an indifferent start to the tournament, he managed to squeeze his side into the semifinals with an unbeaten 120 in the must-win final match of the Super Six round against South Africa at Headingley. South Africa were Australia’s opponents in the semifinal as well, and Waugh again played a significant role.

  The South African fast bowlers had Australia on the mat at 68/4, at which stage Waugh was joined by Michael Bevan. The two ice-cool batsmen combined for a confidence-boosting fifth-wicket stand of 90. Waugh scored 56 from 76 balls, which proved to be invaluable. Of course, his astute captaincy too contributed to South Africa’s downfall. 

Craig McDermott (1987)

  Pakistan were set 268 to win the semifinal in front of their home crowd in Lahore, but an in-form Craig McDermott shattered their dream. The 22-year-old fast bowler removed opener Manzoor Akhtar early, castling him to leave the score at 37/2.

  Then at 177/4, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram were threatening to put Pakistan in charge when McDermott produced another great delivery to uproot Akram’s woodwork. This proved to be a crucial breakthrough for Australia as the Pakistani lower order and tail now faced a daunting task.

  With the score reading 236/7, Pakistan still had an outside chance of pulling it off. However, McDermott returned to grab the final three wickets, those of Saleem Yousuf, Saleem Jaffar and Tauseef Ahmed – all caught behind by Greg Dyer – to ensure an 18-run win for his side with an over left. He took 5/44, the only five-wicket haul of the tournament.

Michael Bevan (1996 and 1999)

  Michael Bevan, one of Australia’s finest limited-overs players, had a big role to play in two successive World Cup semifinals. Firstly, in 1996, he came out to bat with the score reading a miserable 15/4 against a rampant West Indies pace attack at Mohali.

  With his team in dire straits, Bevan along with Stuart Law (72 from 105 balls) proceeded to add a game-changing 138 runs in 32 overs for the fifth wicket. When he was dismissed for a courageous 69 from 110 balls, the score was 171 and at least it ensured a semblance of respectability to the innings. As it happened, Australia’s modest 207/8 was just enough for them to enter the final.

zbevan     Michael Bevan produced important half-centuries in the semi-finals of the 1996 and 1999 editions (source – gettyimages)

  Then in 1999, Bevan put his hand up again in a very similar situation. He came out to bat at a perilious 68/4 in the epic encounter against South Africa at Edgbaston and with captain Steve Waugh (56) for company, set about rebuilding the innings in his typical style.

  His partnership with Waugh realised 90, but following that, Australia lost two quick wickets to be 158/6. Bevan, a master at batting with the lower order, dominated a 49-run seventh-wicket stand with Shane Warne. The remaining four wickets however fell for six runs, with Bevan the last man to fall for 65 from 101 balls with six fours, the highest score of the match.

Shane Warne (1996 and 1999)

  Just like Bevan, leg-spin wizard Shane Warne was a major catalyst in Australia’s semifinal successes in 1996 and 1999. On both occasions, he was named the man of the match for turning around his team’s fortunes with some magical bowling.

  In 1996 against the West Indies at Mohali, Australia had recovered from a disastrous start to post a total of 207/8. Warne struck early in the chase, catching Courtney Browne off his own bowling to make the score 25/1. However, Browne’s fellow opener Shivnarine Chanderpaul (80) was batting resolutely at the end, and he shared a 68-run second-wicket stand of 68 with Brian Lara. 

  Chanderpaul and Richie Richardson then added a further 72 for the third wicket, and the West Indians appeared to be cruising to victory. Glenn McGrath provided the opening by removing Chanderpaul and Roger Harper in quick succession, thus setting the stage for Warne.

  Warne duly dismissed Ottis Gibson (caught behind), Jimmy Adams and Ian Bishop (both LBW) in a stunning spell from which the Windies could not recover. They were bowled out for 202 in the final over, with Warne recording figures of 4/36.

zzwary    Shane Warne celebrates a wicket in the 1996 semifinal, in which he took 4/36. He followed it up with 4/29 in the 1999 semifinal (source – skysports.com/gettyimages)

  He came up with an even better performance in the 1999 semifinal against South Africa at Edgbaston. Chasing Australia’s 213, South African openers Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs provided a sound start by adding 48 in 12 overs. Warne struck in his second over, bowling Gibbs with a drifting delivery that left the batsman bewildered.

  He repeated the dose to Kirsten, who attempted to sweep the first ball of his third over which ended up clipping his off-stump. Two balls later, he had captain Hansie Cronje caught at slip by Mark Waugh. South Africa were now 53/3, and Warne had three wickets in just eight balls. His figures read 3-2-3-3 at this juncture and went on to bowl eight overs on the trot in his first spell.

  South Africa rebuilt well through Jacques Kallis. When Warne began his final over, South Africa were 161/5 and needed 53 to win from 36 balls. Off the fifth ball, he got rid of Kallis (53) with a flighted delivery which was played to Steve Waugh in the covers. He finished with figures of 10-4-29-4, which went a long way in the match ending in a thrilling tie.

Andrew Symonds (2003)

  Andrew Symonds played the most important innings of his ODI career in the 2003 semifinal against Sri Lanka at Port Elizabeth. Australia had been unbeaten throughout the tournament, but found themselves in some trouble at 51/3 after electing to bat first in this crucial match.

  The star trio of Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting were all back in the pavillion and the Sri Lankans had their tails up. Symonds came out to bat at number five, and along with Darren Lehmann, put the innings on back on track. The pair added a measured 93 for the fourth wicket before Lehmann (36) was dismissed.

  Symonds reached his fifty from 69 balls  with a boundary off Sanath Jayasuriya in the 33rd over. Besides him, no other batsman showed the necessary application on a difficult wicket.

  He battled on and remained till the end, scoring an unbeaten 91 from 118 balls with seven fours and a six. Thanks to him, Australia’s final total of 212/7 proved to be a tricky one for Sri Lanka, who went down by 48 runs on the D/L method. 

Other notable Australian performers in World Cup semifinals:

David Boon and Mark Veletta (1987) – Boon scored 65 from 91 balls while Veletta scored 48 from 50 balls to pave the way for Australia’s strong total.

Stuart Law (1996) – scored a valiant 72 from 105 balls under tremendous pressure to help bail his side out from a precarious position.

Glenn McGrath (1996 and 2007) – In 1996, he took two wickets at a key stage of the West Indian innings. In 2007, he bagged 3/18 to rattle South Africa’s top order.

Damien Fleming (1996 and 1999) – bowled the final over of both the matches in unbelievably tense situations.

Shaun Tait (2007) – bowled a hostile spell of 4/39 to destroy South Africa, resulting in an easy Australian victory.

Watch Shane Warne bamboozle South Africa in 1999  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpfqVDdD3e8

SPECIALS – A look back at World Cup clashes between New Zealand and South Africa

  The fierce rugby union rivalry between the All Blacks and the Springboks is well-known, with the two sides having fought many an epic battle over the years.

  New Zealand’s all-conquering side have always considered South Africa as their toughest competitors, and it remains the most captivating game in the rugby calendar.

  In a few hours’ time, New Zealand and South Africa will go head to head at Auckland’s Eden Park in arguably the most awaited fixture of the year so far. Sounds like another rugger dogfight? No, that can wait for October, when the two nations are expected to meet at some stage of the Rugby World Cup in England.

  For now, it is the first semifinal of the Cricket World Cup that we are talking about. The stakes could not have been higher for the Black Caps and the Proteas – two teams desperate to lay their hands on the trophy.

  Both teams will be gunning to enter a World Cup final for the first time. New Zealand have been unbeatable in the tournament, and there will be expectations from their home crowd to exorcise the demons of the 1992 semifinal defeat to Pakistan at the same venue.

  On the other hand, South Africa know that yet another failure to reach the summit clash will only add to their misery of being perennial tournament underachievers.

  The Kiwis hold a slight historical edge, having won four – including the last three – out of six World Cup matches against South Africa, but that will count for nothing when the knockout commences at New Zealand’s sporting mecca.

  As the mouthwatering clash beckons, let us look back at the previous instances of World Cup matches between New Zealand and South Africa:-

League Stage, Auckland, 1992

  The two teams have indeed met in a World Cup game at Eden Park before. The year was 1992, a watershed year for cricket’s premier limited-overs event what with the introduction of coloured clothing and floodlights. Adding to the freshness was South Africa’s maiden World Cup appearance after having missed the first four editions due to the Apartheid ban.

  Coming into this Leap Year Day match, South Africa had served a message by upstaging Australia in their opening encounter while New Zealand had quickly established themselves as one of the front-runners with wins over Australia and Sri Lanka. South African captain Kepler Wessels won the toss and opted to bat on a slow surface.

  Off-spinner Dipak Patel and Willie Watson made run-scoring difficult the batsmen soon gave in. Watson removed Wessels while Patel accounted for Andrew Hudson. Hansie Cronje followed soon after, and the Proteas were tottering at 29/3. It was left to Peter Kirsten to rescue the innings – he waged a lone battle, scoring 90 off 129 balls from number three as South Africa ended at a modest 190/7.

zgreaty   Mark Greatbatch, who was revelation in the 1992 World Cup, scored a rapid 68 against South Africa at Auckland (source – photosport/stuff.co.nz)

  New Zealand openers Mark Greatbatch and Tom Latham (60) snuffed out any hopes that South Africa might have had. They put on 114, of which 103 were clouted in the first 15 overs itself, before Greatbatch, later named man of the match, fell for a 60-ball 68 to Kirsten’s part-time off-spin. The rest of the chase was akin to a stroll in the park as New Zealand reached 191/3 with a good 15.3 overs left.

Group Stage, Faisalabad, 1996

  Hansie Cronje’s South Africans were regarded as one of the contenders to win the 1996 World Cup, and a facile five-wicket win in this match proved that they meant business. New Zealand batted first after their wicketkeeper-captain Lee Germon called correctly, but the toss was perhaps about the only thing they got right.

  A top-class bowling and fielding effort enabled South Africa to restrict New Zealand to just 177/9. From the moment Nathan Astle got run out in the second over, New Zealand were on the back-foot.

  The score subsided to 36/3 and despite Stephen Fleming (who top-scored with 33) attempting a fightback, the batting failed to get going. A few blows from the lower order rescued the innings from 116/7. Allan Donald bowled a quality spell, collecting 3/34.

  In reply, Gary Kirsten and Steve Palframan put on 41 for the first wicket before Cronje smashed 78 off only 64 balls from number three. He fell to Astle, but by that time his side required only 32 more to win. The victory was duly achieved in 37.3 overs as New Zealand were left to rue fielding lapses. Cronje was named the man of the match.

Super Six, Edgbaston, 1999

  South Africa thoroughly dominated this Super Six match, as a result sealing their place in the semifinals. After Hansie Cronje decided to bat, openers Gary Kirsten (82 from 121 balls) and Herschelle Gibbs (91 from 118) flattened the Kiwi bowling attack with a 176-run partnership.

  Jacques Kallis (53* from 36 balls) and Cronje (39 from 22) ensured that the innings finished on a high note as South Africa rattled up 287/5. Kallis then starred with the ball too as he removed both the openers with just 34 runs on the board to dent the chase early on, and was later named man of the match for his all-round effort.

  New Zealand’s batsmen did not present any semblance of a challenge as the final total limped to 213/8 with captain Stephen Fleming top-scoring with 42. Besides Kallis, Lance Klusener and Cronje too took two wickets each as South Africa turned in a near-perfect display to make their second World Cup semifinal.

Group Stage, Johannesburg, 2003

  New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming broke the hearts of the Wanderers faithful with a sublime career-best innings in what was regarded as a must-win match for his team. The first half of the game however belonged to Herschelle Gibbs, who stroked a wonderful century after Shaun Pollock decided to make first use of a good batting track.

  Gibbs shared a 60-run stand in under ten overs with fellow opener Greame Smith before adding another 66 with pinch-hitter Nicky Boje for the second wicket. The third wicket stand with Jacques Kallis too brought in a further 67 productive runs as Gibbs flayed the New Zealand bowling much to the crowd’s delight. He was dislodged in the 46th over after making 143 from 141 balls with 19 fours and three sixes.

zflemmo    New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming scored an unbeaten 134 to guide his team to victory at Johannesburg in 2003 (source – icc-cricket.com)

  Lance Klusener’s meaty blows at the death guided South Africa to an imposing 306/6. But on the good pitch, Fleming replied with confidence and purpose. He controlled an 89-run opening stand with Craig McMillan to set the foundation. The latter’s dismissal brought Nathan Astle (54*) to the middle, and New Zealand thereafter went into cruise control mode to silence the home crowd.

  Wicketkeeper Mark Boucher muffed the simplest of chances when Fleming was on 53, which proved to be costly. With the score at 182/1 in the 31st over, rain intervened to make things worse for the hosts. The D/L target was revised to 226 in 39 overs.

  Fleming, who ended with a career-best 134* from 132 balls with 21 fours, scored the winning boundary as New Zealand reached 229/1 with 13 balls to spare. Needless to say, he was named man of the match.

Super Eight, St. George’s, 2007

  New Zealand secured a hard-fought five-wicket win in a gripping, low-scoring Super Eight encounter. With this win, the Black Caps confirmed their semifinal spot. Stephen Fleming, in his third World Cup as captain, put South Africa in to bat on a pitch where stroke-making was a challenging task.

  South Africa suffered a woeful start, with both the openers, captain Graeme Smith and A.B de Villiers, back in the hut as the score read 3/2 in three overs, which improved to 52/3 in 20. Herschelle Gibbs, batting at number four, curbed his attacking instincts to score a patient 60. He combined with Ashwell Prince for a 74-run stand for the fourth wicket to steady the ship.

  Craig McMillan (3/23) made vital inroads in the middle overs to keep the innings in check. The run rate never went above four as the South Africans finished with 193/7. The small but tricky total needed to be chased with sensible batting, and New Zealand did exactly that.

  Fleming led from the front with a solid 50 while opening the innings. He shared a 78-run third-wicket alliance with Scott Styris, who scored an equally effective 56. Despite the best efforts of the South African bowlers, New Zealand secured a five-wicket win when Brendon McCullum hit the winning four with ten balls left. McMillan, who scored 38* to go with his three wickets, was named man of the match.

Quarterfinal, Dhaka, 2011

zoram     Jacob Oram celebrates after dismissing Faf du Plessis in the 2011 quarterfinal at Dhaka (source – dunyanews.tv) 

  South Africa, one of the pre-tournament favourites, were knocked out of the World Cup by an inconsistent New Zealand in a high-intensity clash at the Shere Bangla National Stadium. Yet another promising tournament had ended with a ‘choke’ for the Proteas.

  The opening pace-spin combo of Dale Steyn and Robin Peterson reduced New Zealand to 16/2 by the sixth over after Daniel Vettori elected to bat. The Black Caps found their saviours in Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor, who put on a measured 114 runs for the third wicket. But Taylor’s dismissal to Imran Tahir in the 33rd over brought about a flurry of wickets as the innings lost steam.

  Tahir got rid off Ryder too, after the batsman had scored 83 from 121 balls. Controlled death bowling from the Proteas ensured that New Zealand were restricted to 221/8, with Morne Morkel taking 3/46. In reply, off-spinner Nathan McCullum removed Hashim Amla early, but skipper Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis (47) put on 61 for the second wicket.

  Kallis’ dismissal – caught in the deep off Tim Southee – turned around the game. The score even then was a comfortable 108/3 in the 25th over, but panic began to set in. McCullum (3/24) turned the screws by castling J.P Duminy.

  Soon after, the dangerous A.B de Villiers was run out for 35. With South Africa now at 121/5, New Zealand went for the kill. Man of the match Oram (4/39) hastened the collapse as South Africa were bundled out for 172 in 43.2 overs and yet again left to ponder what might have been.

Watch Stephen Fleming’s match-winning 134*  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5S9xZuphlc

Record Book – World Cup fifers by Associate bowlers

  So far in the history of the World Cup, there have been 54 hauls of five wickets or more. However, it was not until 1996 that a bowler from a non-Test nation recorded this feat. In all, there have been only four instances of an Associate bowler taking a five-wicket haul in the World Cup:

5/29 by Shaukat Dukanwala (UAE) v Netherlands, Lahore, 1996

  Both the nations were playing in the World Cup for the first time, and the incentive to win this match was to avoid the wooden spoon in Group B. It was the little-known Mumbai-born off-spinner Shaukat Dukanwala who did the star turn for his side.

  After being put in to bat, the Netherlands were well placed at 77/1 when Dukanwala struck for the first time, catching Flavian Aponso (45) off his own bowling. Peter Cantrell (47) and Tim de Leede guided the score to 148/2, but thereafter wickets began to tumble due to the pressure of the slow run rate.

  Dukanwala made short work of the middle and lower order as he grabbed the last four wickets in just eleven balls to finish with a return of 10-0-29-5 and helped restrict Netherlands to 216/9. UAE overhauled the total in the 45th over to complete a seven-wicket win. Dukanwala shared the Man of the Match award with teammate Salim Raza (84).

5/27 by Austin Codrington (Canada) v Bangladesh, Durban, 2003

zcodr    Austin Codrington exults after dismissing Hannan Sarkar at Durban in 2003. He went on to bowl Canada to their first World Cup win (source – sport360.com)

  Born in Jamaica and a plumber by occupation, right-arm medium-fast bowler Austin Codrington became the first man from an Associate nation to take a World Cup five-wicket haul against a Test team, and the icing on the cake was that it was the catalyst in securing Canada’s first win in the World Cup.

  After deciding to bat, Canada were bowled out for 180 in the final over, with Ian Billcliff’s solid 42 from number four being the top score. In reply, Bangladesh slipped from 33/0 to 76/4, with Codrington opening his account by having opener Hannan Sarkar caught behind.

  Bangladesh were well on track at 106/4, but suffered a terrible collapse as they lost their last six wickets for just 14 in 44 balls. Codrington trapped all-rounder Alok Kapali plumb in front before mopping off the final three batsmen to condemn Bangladesh to 120 all out in just 28 overs. His final figures read 9-3-27-5.

5/43 by Rudi van Vuuren (Namibia) v England, Port Elizabeth, 2003

  Rudi van Vuuren, the only man to represent his country in both cricket and rugby World Cups, returned an excellent performance against England even as his team lost by 55 runs.

  He dismissed Nick Knight and Michael Vaughan early, both caught by Louis Burger, to reduce England to 43/2 within the first ten overs. The innings recovered through Marcus Trescothick (58) and Alec Stewart (60) as England posted 272/7.

  Van Vuuren finished with a return of 10-2-43-5, taking three wickets off the second, fourth and sixth ball of the last over. The Man of the Match honour however went to his teammate, opener Jan-Berrie Burger, who smote 85 off 86 balls to give England a scare before Namibia were restricted to 217/9.

5/24 by Collins Obuya (Kenya) v Sri Lanka, Nairobi, 2003

Collins Obuya of Kenya bowling     Collins Obuya delighted his home crowd with a match-winning bowling display against Sri Lanka in 2003 (source – ndtv.com)

  Leg-spinner Collins Obuya, then a 22-year-old, spun a web around the experienced Sri Lankan batsmen to spearhead Kenya to one of their most memorable sporting triumphs at the Nairobi Gymkhana Ground. This win was instrumental in Kenya’s journey to the semifinals.

  Kenya were restricted to 210/9 after being put into bat. Wicketkeeper Kennedy Otieno – Collins’ older brother – scored a measured 60 while opening the innings. Muttiah Muralitharan bowled tidily to collect 4/28.

  After losing two early wickets, Sri Lanka were looking settled at 71/2 in the 18th over. Obuya provided the breakthrough by dismissing Hashan Tillekaratne in his second over. He went on to destroy the middle order to leave the 1996 champions reeling at 119/7.

  Among his scalps were Mahela Jayawardene (caught and bowled), Kumar Sangakkara and Aravinda de Silva (both caught behind) as he worked his way to dream figures of 10-0-24-5. Sri Lanka subsided for 157 in 45 overs, after which the Kenyans took an emotional victory lap.

Best bowling figures in the World Cup for other (currently) Associate nations:

Ireland – Alex Cusack (4/32) v Zimbabwe, Hobart, 2015

Netherlands – Tim de Leede (4/35) v India, Paarl, 2003

Scotland – John Blain (4/37) v Bangladesh, Edinburgh, 1999

Afghanistan – Shapoor Zadran (4/38) v Scotland, Dunedin, 2015

Bermuda – Saleem Mukuddem (3/19) v Bangladesh, Port of Spain, 2007