Around 14 years ago, a Johannesburg boy Grant Elliott moved to New Zealand for greener pastures. He had already played five years of first-class cricket in South Africa. He even made an appearance for South Africa A, before he made the switch. So when he moved to New Zealand, Elliott was an experienced cricketer.(Full Coverage| Venues | Fixtures)
However, he had to wait for seven more years before he finally got noticed by the New Zealand selectors in 2007. But he did not make the international debut till March 2008. Since then he has been in and out of the squad at varying times.
He was named in the New Zealand squad for Champions Trophy in 2009, when he had his first real tryst with high-pressure cricket. Elliott played the semi-final clash against a mercurial Pakistan in a tense chase. New Zealand were in a spot of bother at 71 for three and then at 126 for four chasing 234. Pakistan’s attack posed much threat as New Zealand needed a cool head to craft the chase. Enter Elliott who held the innings together in partnership with then captain Daniel Vettori, much like on Tuesday. Elliott scored an unbeaten 103-ball 75 as New Zealand fashioned a famous win.
Elliott was thereafter always in and out of the side, till he made a return couple of years ago. This was during the tour to South Africa in 2012-13. New Zealand registered a surprise a 2-1 series win. That was the first full series in charge as captain for McCullum.
Even after that Elliott was in and out of the side as the other all-rounder Jimmy Neesham was starting to make an impression. Neesham impressed in Test cricket with his batting. In fact till a few months before the World Cup, Neesham was considered to be ahead of Elliott. But finally when it came to selecting the World Cup squad, New Zealand plumped for Elliott.
He had played last for New Zealand against Sri Lanka in November 2013. But it was his excellent form in the domestic T20 tournament for Wellington which forced the coach Mike Hesson to select him. Hesson wanted someone to back up the excellent top-order batting. “The key for us was we needed someone, who could bat four, five and six. Four and five initially and six to cover if Corey [Anderson] was to be injured,” Hesson said.
“The fact Grant has performed very well in New Zealand and Australia conditions, he’s in good form, he’s able to offer us a bowling option and he’s experienced [counted in his favour]. He’s got a bit of craft about him, how he delivers the ball. He’s a welcome addition to the squad and I’m sure he’ll do very well for us,” added Hesson.
Before the World Cup, New Zealand played a seven-match series. Elliott showed glimpse of his batting ability then, when he along with Luke Ronchi added a world record 267 runs for the sixth wicket. New Zealand had been struggling at 93 for five and when the duo finished they had taken their side to 360.
That was the first indication that New Zealand had got their selection right for the World Cup. For the man himself, it was a great opportunity to show the world what he was capable of. “I’ve been playing a different sort of role for Wellington, where I come in at the end and give it a whack. It seems like whenever I play for the Black Caps, my role is to come in and rotate the strike and strike as close to a 100 as I can, especially if we’ve lost three quick ones,” Elliott had said at the end of that ODI in Dunedin.
The role had not changed one bit on Tuesday when Elliott got together with Corey Anderson to fashion New Zealand’s chase against South Africa. In many ways, Elliott had proved his selection right and more importantly had repaid the faith posed in him by coach Hesson, who also doubles up as chief selector.
So in six years, Elliott has fashioned two major semi-final wins. Then in 2009, Elliott and New Zealand failed at the final hurdle at the hands of Australia, can they go one better this time?
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines