It would be absolutely fair to say that the first Semi-final played between New Zealand and South Africa was the best game of the ICC World Cup 2015 so far. It was a game full of excitement and the nerves jangled. The mounting pressure was felt not just by the players, but even by the fans. Both the sides, fought like champions, and gave it their best shot. However, at the end of the day, it was the New Zealanders who held their nerves, and emerged victorious.
The men in black now are headed for Melbourne, where they are just one step away from glory. A spirited performance on the 29th of March would mean that the World Cup would be in their grasp. However, cricket lovers learnt a lot as a courtesy of the first semi final.
Below, is the summary of 6 Things we learnt from the New Zealand vs South Africa Semi-final –
1. Significance of team selection:
It is time and again said in cricket that the best possible XI must be chosen to represent the team. By the term “best” side, only those players must be picked who are in good form, and not those who just have a reputation. It is also said that the team must comprise of those individuals who are best suited for the conditions.
Unfortunately, the Proteas today did not take care of the two things. Firstly, they chose Vernon Philander over Kyle Abbott. Abbott had been sensational throughout the campaign, and was a must for this game. Philander looked entirely rusty. He bowled way too short, and did not let the ball seam or swing. That made life uncomplicated for Brendon McCullum, who enjoyed his offerings.
Secondly, with the short boundaries in fray, having a genuine fifth bowler was a must. De Villiers and Duminy were the “fifth bowlers” for South Africa, and their 8 overs cost them 64 runs. That says a lot.
2. Duckworth and Lewis Method:
The much dreaded and feared Duckworth and Lewis method was back to haunt South Africa. They had a tough time encountering the method in the 2003 World Cup and in the 1992 World Cup too. Years later, it was back like an evil force, to bother them.
The Proteas were 216-3 in the 38th over when the rain intervened. They were set for a 350+ total, as AB was about to go berserk. But after losing an hour, the D/L method hogged the limelight and only five overs were added.
The Proteas got to 281, but to their dismay, only 17 runs were added. The Kiwis needed 298 from 43 overs to win the semi-final. The New Zealanders therefore exactly knew the batting strategies which they needed adopt. It would not be wrong to say that the method adversely affected the Proteas. Only a mere 17 runs were added, which made life easy for the Kiwis. This game has again signaled that it’s high time, for an improved method to be introduced.
3. Aggressive Captaincy:
The outing was made memorable greatly because of the aggressive captaincy both captains. McCullum and De Villiers both were lively and energetic. Not even for a minute did they let the game slip away from them.
In the first half of the game, McCullum showed that why aggression runs in his blood. He deployed as many as 4 slips and a gully. ODI Cricket has indeed been rejuvenated. McCullum let the aggression talk through his willow as well. His blistering start of 59 from 26 swung the game in New Zealand’s way. His aggression did not even spare Dale Steyn.
AB de Villiers too was extremely aggressive and passionate. That was evident in the fielding and marshaling the troops. It was because of this aggression, that today we were able to witness an epic ODI.
4. Importance of Team Work:
The age old management lesson of team work was out on display today. The Kiwi side performed exceptionally well as a team. When the Kiwis took field today, it was evident that everyone was given a certain set of roles, which they had to adhere too.
The batting for instance was a perfect example of team coordination. It was clear that the openers were given the job of providing a blistering start. They were successful in doing so. The all-rounders, Elliot and Anderson were assigned the task of calmly guiding the chase and ticking the scoreboard. They were pretty successful as well. This point makes it clear that team work relieves an individual and maximizes the productivity of a cricketer.
5. Role of Spin:
Imran Tahir today made it crystal clear that spin is vital asset in any part of the globe. Even though the conditions were nowhere near his liking, he was terrific. His accurate display of wrist spin was worth showering praises for.
When the batsmen were going all guns blazing, Tahir ensured that the run rate was lowered. He was successful in bamboozling the Kiwi batsmen. It was due to his accurate display, that the Kiwis came under immense pressure. Earlier in the day, Daniel Vettori was spectacular too. His miserly spell in the afternoon ensured that the Proteas didn’t rush with the game.
6. It was NOT A CHOKE:
The dreaded “C” word is often associated with the South Africans. This is done because of their infamous losses in knockout encounters. However, saying that they choked today, would surely defy cricketing sense. Choking is said to happen, when a team makes a mess of a successful situation, and ends up losing the game.
However, today the South Africans were nowhere near choking. They were in the game right till the last few balls. They lost today mainly, because New Zealand was slightly the better side.
The game was surely a memorable encounter, and was made even more special because of the above 6 reasons. This game will surely go down in the category of “great encounters”.