New Zealand v South Africa, 3rd quarter-final, World Cup 2011, Mirpur
Oram leads New Zealand to stunning upset
New Zealand 221 for 8 (Ryder 83, Taylor 43, Morkel 3-46) beat South Africa 172 (Oram 4-39) by 49 runs
Oh South Africa, what have you done? Earlier this month Graeme Smith tweeted an article titled 'Time to ban the 'C' word'. Hold on to that thought Smith, for clearly that time hasn't come yet. South Africa were cruising at 108 for 2 in the 25th over when Jacques Kallis fell and they crash-landed spectacularly to be shot out for 172. The self-destructive streak, demonically masochistic in nature, will perhaps need shrinks to decode it. Once they realised their opponents were cracking under pressure, New Zealand went for the kill with close-in fielders and disciplined bowling, led by Jacob Oram who took four wickets and a great catch.
Even when Kallis fell - to a blinder of a catch from Jacob Oram, rushing to his left at deep midwicket - there wasn't much to suggest that this could turn into another contender for all-time greatest choke in World Cup history. The pitch was slow but there was no sharp turn; the bowlers were disciplined but there was no sensational game-breaking spell; none of the three spinners got much purchase from the wicket; and the total was below par; but for some reason South Africa were feeling extremely claustrophobic.
Their nerves were best represented by the dismissal of JP Duminy, who played an awful shot to open the choke gates. Nathan McCullum slowed up the pace on a delivery that landed on a length, outside off, and Duminy went so hard into an ugly cut that he ended up dragging the ball on to his stumps. With Duminy's fall, South Africa were in a spot of bother at 121 for 4, in the 28th over, and the first signs of something special loomed over Mirpur.
There was more heartbreak for South Africa fans in the next over. Faf du Plessis hit straight to midwicket and ran like a headless chicken. AB de Villiers should perhaps have refused that call but he responded, only to find himself well short of the crease. It was at this moment that New Zealand really sensed that this could be their night.
The moment was so ripe that even Daniel Vettori, not known for sledging, gave some lip to du Plessis and Kyle Mills, who had carried drinks on to the field at the fall of de Villiers, got into the act. A visibly agitated du Plessis shoved Mills, the departing de Villiers returned to support his partner, and eventually the umpires had to get involved. New Zealand's players swooped in to the crime scene and it was a classic Youtube moment. You could almost feel the pressure-cooker situation out there.
New Zealand crowded the bat with close-in men, ready to sledge and eager to pile on the pressure, and Johan Botha cracked in the 33rd over. It was a lovely legcutter from Oram and Botha played down the wrong line to lose his off stump. Oram, who was the man who started it all with that Kallis catch, wasn't done yet. In the 35th over, he lured Robin Peterson into edging an attempted cut to the keeper and South Africa were swaying away like drunken men at 132 for 7. South Africa's nerves were frayed further when Dale Steyn square drove Nathan McCullum in the air to backward point, where who else but Oram accepted the offering.
If Oram was the man in the forefront of New Zealand's resurgence, du Plessis was the man seeking redemption for making that wrong call that led to the run out of de Villiers. In his brief international career, he has already shown a tenacity to remain relatively calm under pressure. And he wasn't ready to throw in the towel. He was on 14 when Steyn fell, and he took ownership of the chase. He rushed down the track to slam Tim Southee to the straight boundary in the 40th over, on drove Vettori to collect another four in the 41st, and even lifted Oram for a thrilling six over long-off in the 43rd over.
It was in the same over that the game turned for one last time, and it was also an over that captured the entire madness of the evening. du Plessis had crashed the first delivery of the over back at Oram who couldn't hold on to a very difficult chance, and once the six was hit, one had to ask the question: was the night turning for Oram? Was it swinging towards du Plessis? But du Plessis sliced the fifth ball straight to extra cover and South Africa had well and truly sunk into oblivion.
The end was a far cry from the way South Africa started the day. They attacked with spin and seam, shuffled their bowlers regularly like a pack of cards, and hustled on the field to keep a tight leash on New Zealand. Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor were at the forefront of a revival from the depths of 16 for 2; carefully, almost mindful of a potential lower-order collapse on this pitch, Ryder and Taylor battled through. The odd boundary signalled growing comfort, but they never broke away decisively. A nervy equilibrium had been reached by the end of the 30th over with New Zealand reaching 112 for 2 and the game was waiting to be seized. However, both Ryder and Taylor departed in quick succession but Kane Williamson made a vital 38 to push New Zealand to 221.
It shouldn't have been enough, it didn't feel like enough, but it proved enough. It was a crazy crazy night in Mirpur. Ironically, Allan Donald, the man who was involved in the other famous South African choke, was in the other camp tonight.