There are some interesting parallels between New Zealand’s last two World Cup wins over South Africa. Auckland 2015 and Edgbaston 2019 saw fielding standards of both teams drop to abysmal levels. Catches were dropped and straightforward run-out chances missed.
However, the BlackCaps’ victory march on both these occasions were driven by individual brilliance from their captains, who were ably supported by defining contributions from the lesser-known all-rounders.
New Zealand and South Africa have combined to drop nine catches in both these matches — quite a mind-boggling stat considering both these teams pride themselves as being amongst the top fielding sides. During the epic 2015 semi-final encounter in Eden Park, the culprits for the BlackCaps were wicket-keeper Luke Ronchi — who dropped Quinton de Kock — his opposite number in just the second over of the match. The drop didn’t cost the hosts as the Protea keeper added another four runs to his tally before getting snapped up by Trent Boult. Later in the innings, the usually safe Kane Williamson floored AB de Villiers on 38. The South African captain made the Kiwis pay dearly, stacking up another 27 runs at a rapid rate, with his belligerence being instrumental in their march towards what looked like a formidable score of 281/5.
Trent Boult dropped Amla early in the match, while Nathan McCullum dropped JP Duminy in the final over. South Africa didn’t fare any better: Duminy grassed Grant Elliott in the 42nd over of the chase, which proved to be a miss of calamitous proportions as his blitz powered Kiwis to a sensational win.
Cut to Edgbaston 2019, and a similar script was played out once again.
Batting first, South Africa got two reprieves – the first came when Boult dropped Aiden Markram off Colin de Grandhomme at deep fine leg. The howler would not hurt New Zealand as De Grandhomme would extract revenge in his next over by dismissing Markram. The deep fine leg region proved to be a jinxed position for Kane Williamson’s team as Lockie Ferguson, put down Henry van der Dussen in the same region in the 47th over.
The middle-order batsman made most of that opportunity to smash Ferguson for 15 runs in the final over to push South Africa’s total past the 240-run mark. In response, South Africa were equally clumsy on the field — David Miller dropped two catches in a single Imran Tahir over — and the batsmen in question were Colin de Grandhomme and Williamson.
In Auckland, South Africa missed two clear run-out chances under bizarre circumstances. First-up, AB de Villiers, arguably the best fielder on the planet, muffed a straightforward run-out chance to dismiss Corey Anderson in the 32nd over, who was stranded miles away from the non-striker’s end. Inexplicably, AB failed to collect the throw cleanly, but removed the bails with his hands. Nine overs later, de Kock failed to collect a throw from Rilee Rossouw, but he too removed the bails with his gloves, as Elliott was stranded well outside the crease.
There was a similar mix-up at Edgbaston as well. A miscommunication between Williamson and de Grandhomme ensued in the first delivery of the 40th over, and Kagiso Rabada swooped on the ball and threw it to Miller at the non-striker’s end. In a moment of high tension, Miller, much like de Villiers and de Kock four years ago, failed to collect the ball, but dislodged the bails.
NZ’S ACCIDENTAL HEROES
There’s another interesting parallel in both these high-octane clashes. Auckland 2015 and Edgbaston 2019 saw the emergence of two accidental heroes — who delivered impactful knocks during crunch moments of the respective chases that swung the tide emphatically in New Zealand’s favour. Auckland saw Grant Elliott pulling off one of the game’s most sensational heists, a stunning counter-attacking innings that fluffed Proteas’ resistance. In the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, Elliott was not remotely in the reckoning to make it to the squad.
He made the cut after getting the backing from captain Brendon McCullum. In hindsight, the move proved to be a masterstroke. Similarly, Colin de Grandhomme was the BlackCaps hero at Edgbaston. The Harare-born all-rounder stifled South Africa with his nagging medium-pacers and then followed it up with an emphatic 48-ball 60 that could not have come at a more opportune moment in the game. His belligerence blended seamlessly with his captain’s poise. Unsurprisingly, their 91-run fifth-wicket alliance with captain Williamson was the cornerstone of their win.
LEADING FROM THE FRONT
Despite their abysmal fielding performances in both these crunch games, New Zealand still managed to etch out tense, narrow wins. This was primarily due to their captain’s individual brilliance. In Auckland, McCullum’s early onslaught numbed the Proteas pacers. By the time, he was dismissed for a 26-ball 59, New Zealand had marched to 71 in just six overs. There was a slight wobble in the middle-order, before Anderson and Elliot took them home. Williamson’s knock was quite a contrast to McCullum’s aggro.
Like Auckland, New Zealand experienced a similar hiccup in the middle overs at Edgbaston too. But that did little to fluster him. He played the sheet-anchor’s role and allowed the more industrious de Grandhomme to do the bulk of the hitting. With a bit of luck and lot of pluck, Williamson sealed the deal with an exquisite six.