In keeping with their past record, South Africa had breezed through the league matches. New Zealand were the underdogs in this quarter-final but were not to be written off, particularly on this slow wicket. They were able to put up a modest total though of 221 for eight, helped in the main by a 114-run third-wicket stand between Jesse Ryder (83) and Ross Taylor (43). But the Kiwis had a trick or two up their sleeve, as they opened their bowling with spin at both ends.
Nathan McCullum earned immediate success with his off-breaks as the last ball of his first over kept low. Hashim Amla under-edged the ball as he attempted to cut. The ball bounced off the bowler’s wicketkeeper brother Brendon’s boot, for skipper Daniel Vettori to complete the fortuitous catch. Was this a sign of things to come?
Left-armer Vettori came on himself at the other end but did not meet with the same success, as his opposite numbers Graeme Smith and the experienced Jacques Kallis settled into a fine partnership, cruising at close to five runs an over.
Jacob Oram bowled second-change. He pitched one full, well outside the off-stump, and Smith slashed it but was unable to keep it on the ground. Substitute Jamie How took a splendid catch. It was a vital breakthrough, with the board reading 69 for two. The accomplished AB de Villiers, however, provided able support and once again the Proteas seemed on course.
Then came a magic moment, the like of which often turns a match. Tim Southee dug one in short and Kallis pulled it fiercely. The ball seemed to be sailing high over mid-wicket for a six.
As all eyes were focused on the little white object up in the air, the lanky Oram sprinted to his left, and precisely at the right instant plucked it just as it was about to go over the rope. It was a tremendous effort which sent back the well-settled Kallis for 47, just when it seemed that he was guiding his team to an easy win.
Soon things began happening. Jean-Paul Duminy did not last long, and two balls later De Villiers was run out. Oram was back in action as he moved one away from Johan Botha, which knocked over the timber. In his next over, the inspired Oram pushed the ball across Robin Peterson, who just managed an inside-edge, and Brendon McCullum completed the dismissal.
From 108 for two in 24 overs, South Africa had slumped to 132 for seven in the 35th over. Surely, the writing was on the wall now. It was, as soon after Dale Steyn flailed his bat at a flighted delivery outside off from Nathan McCullum. The ball just looped up in the air, and who else but Oram ran in and dived to get under the ball before it hit the turf.
Faf du Plessis had been battling hard but with wickets and overs running out, he tried to slam Oram inside-out. He only succeeded in holing one out to Southee in the covers. Now at 172 for nine, the South Africans weren’t going anywhere. Morne Morkel too fell at the same score. Incredibly, South Africa had choked again.
The man of the moment was the big Jacob Oram with a haul of four for 39 in his 9 overs, and two catches including the exhilarating, crucial one of Kallis. It was a stellar effort by the player who constantly battled injuries to keep his career on track. Here he had done his nation proud against all odds on the biggest stage of all.
Vettori echoed the sentiment as he said, “Ours is a small country and this is a wonderful achievement.” Inspired performances like Oram’s on this day often upset the form book, just as Brian Lara had done against the same opponent at the same stage 15 years earlier.
New Zealand: 221 for 8 wickets (50 overs), South Africa: 172 all out (43.2 overs)Published 17 May 2019, 23:13 IST