The possessed Kiwis make it to their first World Cup final

Published: March 24, 2015
Email

New Zealand celebrate the dismissal of the West Indies' Marlon Samuels in their Cricket World Cup quarterfinal match in Wellington, March 21, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

The New Zealand players take a lap of honour, New Zealand v South Africa, World Cup 2015, 1st Semi-Final, Auckland, March 24, 2015. PHOTO: AFP New Zealand celebrate the dismissal of the West Indies' Marlon Samuels in their Cricket World Cup quarterfinal match in Wellington, March 21, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

South Africa beat New Zealand by six wickets and AB de Villiers is the man of the match for his unbeaten 89 off 85 balls. No, this is not the match result of the 2015 World Cup semi-final in Auckland; this happened back in October, 2014.

AB de Villiers punches the ball into the off side, New Zealand v South Africa, 1st ODI, Mount Maunganui, October 21, 2014. Photo: AFP

It was the first ODI’s result when the Proteas visited New Zealand for a three-match ODI series. The second ODI was won by de Villiers’s men by 72 runs and the last match was abandoned due to rain, leaving South Africa victorious 2-0 against the Kiwis in their home.

New Zealand then visited the UAE to face Pakistan in a five-match ODI series. The series stood 2-2 and the Kiwis bagged victory in the last ODI, achieving a perfect boost for the upcoming World Cup which they were co-hosting with Australia.

The New Zealand players celebrate with the series trophy, Pakistan v New Zealand, 5th ODI, Abu Dhabi, December 19, 2014. Photo: AFP

Next, they hosted Sri Lanka in a seven-match ODI series and beat the Islanders comprehensively 4-2. The series ended on January 29, 2015 and they hosted Pakistan for a two-match ODI series on January 30th.

Pakistan players look disappointed after the 2-0 series loss, New Zealand v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Napier, February 3, 2015. Photo: AFP

No time to waste on rest. Hard work, hard work, hard work was the order of the day for them.

All this information is necessary to understand how they managed an unbeaten run in the 2015 World Cup and now they will be facing the winner of the Australia-India semi-final in an attempt to reach out for the most acclaimed trophy.

As the title suggests, the Kiwis were possessed to win the premier event. A long run with Shane Bond as their bowling coach helped them harvest express paced bowlers, while under the aggressive captaincy of Brendon McCullum, all the batsmen forgot what fear was while facing world’s best bowlers.  All the above mentioned games were a test for all the players. The Kiwis experimented with batsmen and bowlers. They experimented with combinations to find that one right blend which can and will always click.

Brendon McCullum akcnowledges the crowd after New Zealand’s win over South Africa in the World Cup semi-final. Photo: AFP

They walked into the tournament with an attacking mind-set and devoured Sri Lanka. A 98-run victory over the Islanders rang the warning bells for all the participants and most importantly the teams in their pool.

New Zealand in action during World Cup warm-up match against Sri Lanka. Photo: AFP

Next up, they faced Scotland. The dynamic Trent Boult and Tim Southee duo did the damage upfront with two wickets each. The veteran left-hand spin wizard Daniel Vettori later joined the sermon to bag three scalps. Corey Anderson made sure he lends his assistance in the cause with his three wickets. The chase became a little tricky but the Kiwis came out unscathed; both in confidence and in form.

New Zealand celebrate after making early inroads, New Zealand v Scotland, World Cup 2015, Group A, Dunedin, February 17, 2015. Photo: ICC

The England hurdle followed. A lone-warrior Tim Southee was enough to help his team jump over it. He stood up to the task and sent seven English batsmen packing with his swing wizardry giving away just 33 runs in nine overs. The captain then walked in to add insult to England’s injury and rapid-fired to 77 off just 25 to make sure his team crossed the line.

New Zealand bowler Tim Southee (centre L) celebrates with teammates after dismissing England batsman Ian Bell during the Pool A 2015 Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and England at Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington on February 20, 2015. Photo: AFP

The most difficult opponent then stood waiting. Four-time World Cup winners Australia. Both teams had their weapons ready and Trent had prepared some serious lightening ‘Boults’ for the Kangaroos. A five-for doesn’t say much about Boult’s sorcery on that day, but whoever saw the encounter was left enchanted by this recruit’s swing bowling.

Trent Boult celebrates after dismissing Hashim Amla in the World Cup 2015 semi-final match between New Zealand and South Africa. Photo: AFP

A target of 152 was presented. The Kiwis seemed to be in for a smooth sail but once again they stumbled a little. Captain McCullum went back after scoring exact 50 but he left his most trusted warrior Kane Williamson in the field to end the job on this day. Mitchell Starc matched Boult’s magnificence on that day with a five-for but unfortunately wasn’t able to push his team one last step forward. Williamson struck a six in the last over with one wicket remaining to end Australia’s misery. It was a killer blow to suck the life out of their opponents, and soak in the elixir of confidence for the rest of the campaign.

Say cheese: New Zealand pose with the Chappell-Hadlee trophy after edging Australia, New Zealand v Australia, World Cup 2015, Group A, Auckland, February 28, 2015. Photo: ICC

A six-wicket victory over Afghanistan was inevitable, but the Bengali Tigers came in prepared to end Kiwis’ victory march. Mahmudullah scored 128 off 123 for Bangladesh; Martin Guptill replied with a 105 off 100 balls.

They were already through to the quarters but they fought hard and earned yet another victory and never did the Kiwis seem like they were giving up. Their facial expression never showed a shimmer of disbelief in their selves. They were obsessed with victory and they wanted it badly, really badly.

The quarter-final against West Indies was a one-sided matter but it was made so by the marvellous Guptill who alone scored 237 runs to become the highest individual run-getter in the World Cups. Boult again displayed his miraculous skills with the ball early on when the Windies came in to chase a mammoth 394-run target.

A multi-exposure shot of Martin Guptill cutting the ball, New Zealand v West Indies, World Cup 2015, 4th quarter-final, Wellington, March 21, 2015. Photo: ICC

The win placed them against South Africa in the semis and everyone was on their seat till the last ball of this very match. A South African-born player Grant Elliot pushed the Kiwis into their first World Cup final with a six in the last over off world’s number one bowler Dale Steyn. A four wicket win against one of the best teams in this World Cup.

New Zealand’s Grant Elliott reacts after the team’s victory in the semi-final Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and South Africa played at Eden Park in Auckland on March 24, 2015. Photo: AFP

The possession was evident on Elliot’s face. When asked what was he thinking when he hit the six, he said,

“I did not think anything. I didn’t even know where the ball went.”

On a concluding note, the Kiwis’ World Cup campaign has been one that of passion. They had never won it and this time they had what was needed to put their hand on the golden trophy. They are in the final now. One last hurdle awaits, one last war remains and one last push forward is required off them.

Grant Elliott, Kyle Mills and Tim Southee soak in the historic win, New Zealand v South Africa, World Cup 2015, 1st semi-final, Auckland, March 24, 2015. Photo: ICC

 

Will they be able to do it?

The mind says they deserve it, the heart says they will.

 

Abdul Majid

Abdul Majid

An outspoken, non-conformist writer who works as a sub-editor on the sports desk at The Express Tribune. He tweets @abdulmajidawaan

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.