Super Six Stage: New Zealand v South Africa
John Houlihan

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South Africa coasted to an extremely comfortable 74 run victory over New Zealand in their Super Six game at Edgbaston. The foundation of the South African's victory was a massive 176 run first wicket partnership between Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs, aided by some late power hitting from Hansie Cronje and man of the match Jacques Kallis. Despite a brave innings of 42 from skipper Stephen Fleming and a breezy 35 from Roger Twose , the Kiwis were never really in the hunt and the victory practically assures South Africa of place in the semi-finals.

Hansie Cronje won the toss and decided to bat under cloudy skies in central Birmingham. Geoff Allott opened the bowling for the Kiwis and immediately found the inside edge of Gary Kirsten's bat, but the ball missed the stumps and squirted down towards fine leg. Dion Nash was Allot's new ball partner, but Kirsten and fellow opener Herschelle Gibbs made a steady, if slow start with few further alarms.

South Africa continued to progress but good fielding and excellent field settings from Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming kept the openers in check initially at least. After the tenth over, the South Africans seemed to make a conscious effort to up the scoring rate, at last starting to find the boundary and nudging quick singles. The South Africans posted their fifty in the fourteenth over and as both openers began to settle in, their total continued to climb at a steady rate. Larson and Cairns eventually took over the bowling duties, but with the pitch and conditions offering little assistance, Harris was brought on to try and make the breakthrough with the batsmen looking serene and in almost total control.

With both Kirsten and Gibbs able to dictate proceedings, Kirsten pulled Nash through square leg to bring up his fifty and breathe new life into a rather lacklustre crowd. As the South African batsmen began to dominate, Fleming juggled his bowlers around desperate for the breakthrough as unforced fielding errors began to creep into the Kiwis's game. Gibbs posted his fifty and began to play some expansive pulls and drives, rattling three consecutive boundaries off Nash and the South African openers continued to accelerate and seemed able to plunder runs at will on the slow, lifeless pitch.

With the South African openers looking almost unassailable, Gary Kirsten moved to four thousand runs in One Day Internationals and then attempted to turn Nash around the corner, but instead looped up a catch which was snapped up by Astle at mid wicket to depart for 82. With the Kiwis at last achieving their much needed breakthrough, Hansie Cronje sent in Lance Kleusener to jog along an already impressive run rate, but he lasted just five balls before Larsen nipped one through the gate to peg his off stump and dismiss Kleusener for the first time in the tournament. However with Gibbs still at the crease and now closing in on his hundred, South Africa were well placed for the final ten over onslaught.

With the innings careering towards its climax, Jacques Kallis came to crease and pillaged nineteen off Chris Harris' final over, including two massive sixes which finished way back in the stands. Herschelle Gibbs looked well set to post his century, but the returning Geoff Allott, again the pick of the New Zealand attack, produced a fiery yorker to dismiss him for a cultured 91 and set a new record of nineteen wickets in World Cup competition. Daryl Cullinan lasted just two balls before he chipped up a return catch to Chris Cairns, who took a difficult chance diving away to his left. The wickets appeared to slow the South African's charge, but skipper Hansie Cronje, feinting and retreating to the leg side, played a whirlwind skipper's knock to continue the momentum, spanking Cairns for two steepling sixes in the penultimate over and finishing with off 39 off 22 balls before he was run out by a direct throw from Nash. Kallis just had time to post his fifty in the final over as the South Africans finished strongly to post a highly competitive total.

Facing a daunting target, Nathan Astle and Matt Horne came out to open proceedings for New Zealand with Shaun Pollock entrusted with the opening over for South Africa. Jonty Rhodes was soon in action at backward point, but Horne sliced over the slips to record the first Kiwi boundary of the day and get them off to an auspicious start. Kallis took the new ball from the City end with the Kiwi supporters brandishing inflatable sheep to greet the occasional boundary, Astle fortunately survived a huge appeal for caught behind off Kallis, from a ball which quite patently deflected off his thigh pad.

Just as their openers appeared to have given New Zealand a decent start, Matt Horne provided a regulation edge which Pollock safely pouched at second slip to give Jacques Kallis his fiftieth wicket in One Day Internationals. Pollock troubled Astle throughout the whole of the seventh over and was unlucky not to make a further breakthrough, but as new batsman Craig McMillan sprinted a dicey two, Kleusener's powerful, accurate throw from third man almost gifted the South Africans another cheap wicket.

Kallis worked up a good pace and made the next breakthrough, having Astle caught low down at widish slip by Cullinan. Next man in, New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming started brightly, punching Donald for four through square leg from his very first ball and then flayed Elworthy through the covers for another boundary. McMillan was caught brilliantly by Boucher off a short pitcher from Elworthy, only to have it called no-ball in a marginal decision by umpire Venkat. However, as the fielding restrictions were lifted and the field spread, the required run-rate continued to climb and the Kiwi batsmen were never able to really cut loose in the face of some tight bowling.

With hazy sunshine breaking through the cloud and a restless crowd willing some excitement into the rather tedious proceedings in the middle, McMillan flicked a chance which fell just beyond the reach of the airborne Rhodes. But neither batsman could really break the shackles, until Fleming lofted Donald over mid-off for four and received a vicious bouncer for his trouble. Fleming and McMillan posted their fifty partnership in the twenty fourth over, but the Kiwis desperately needed to accelerate if they were to stand a chance of challenging South Africa's total. With the game at its half way stage, Hansie Cronje declared skipper's privilege and turned his arm over, having immediate success as McMillan uncharacteristically tried to launch an assault and skied one which had the South African fielders queuing up, although it was Herschelle Gibbs who finally took the easiest of catches.

With Roger Twose back on his home ground and joining his skipper in the middle, Stephen Fleming managed to pass three thousand runs in One Day Internationals before Hansie again proved himself a golden arm as the Kiwi captain lobbed a routine delivery up to Shaun Pollock at mid on. Facing a run rate nudging over nine, a restive crowd urged the South Africans to put the Kiwis out of their misery, but Chris Cairns attempted to add some much needed impetus although even the embryonic Mexican waves which occasionally threatened to sweep the ground had a rather weary air. After a short but adventurous innings, Cairns was eventually cleaned bowled by an inswinger from Klusener and Parore was run out going for a suicidal single, as the game slipped ever further out of the Kiwi's grasp.

With the game meandering towards an inevitable conclusion in bright early evening sunshine, Twose began to play his shots as the Kiwi total inched incrementally upward. Chris Harris had a close call from a direct hit, but it was Twose who perished next skying a Klusener delivery which skipper Cronje took comfortably at long off. With defeat for New Zealand now a certainty, both teams seemed to be going through the motions out on the field and a strange air of lethargy also gripped the spectators, as the remaining Kiwi batsmen plodded along, content to measure their progress in singles. Pollock clean bowled Nash, but it wasn't until the last ball of the forty eighth over that the Kiwi total inched over the two hundred mark, an event which was greeted by two male streakers leaping the advertising boards, which at least enlivened an otherwise extremely dull finale.