OVER THE course of the 20th century South African and New Zealand rugby teams have enjoyed one of the most enduring rivalries in sport. But if the all black jersey against the green and gold has been known to move grown men to tears, the only time a cricket match between the two has required the use of a white hanky has been for someone to wave it, which is essentially what New Zealand did at Edgbaston yesterday as they surrendered unconditionally by 74 runs.
The win means that South Africa, with six points and one match against Australia remaining, have qualified for the semi-finals. There will be no respite, however, and a win on Sunday could put the Aussies out, providing New Zealand beat India and Pakistan overcome Zimbabwe.
It is never easy against a side of South Africa's bowling firepower, but the pitch was as slow and Kiwi-like as New Zealand could hope for. Considering they only lost a home one-day series to South Africa 3-2 five months ago they should have done better and, once Hansie Cronje's team had made 287 for 5, their batting appeared resigned to defeat. Only the captain, Stephen Fleming, with 42, and Roger Twose, with a spirited 35, can feel exonerated in a bloodless batting performance.
Twose was just one of four present who know Edgbaston well, following an involvement with Warwickshire. South Africa, with Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Bob Woolmer, held the aces though, and Pollock's unremitting accuracy bought wickets for his team-mates at the other end.
Jacques Kallis, who had both openers caught at slip, was one beneficiary, though he later left the field having bowled only six overs to protect an abdominal strain. He was not missed as captain Cronje chipped in with two wickets.
The Kiwis' bowling, normally so good on slow surfaces, was almost totally ineffective and, for once, South Africa's openers and middle-order prospered. With little swing from Geoff Allott, Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs added 176 for the first wicket, a score 10 runs short of the World Cup record set by Kirsten and Andrew Hudson against the Netherlands in the previous World Cup. Allott did make history, however, and the perfect yorker with which he later dismissed Gibbs for 91 was his 19th wicket of the tournament and a World Cup record.
Over the years not many sides have collared the likes of Gavin Larsen and Chris Harris, New Zealand's slow-mediums, but South Africa clearly had a plan to dominate them. From the outset big shots were played against all but Allott and some mighty sixes, initially by Kallis and then by Cronje, saw to it that 43 runs came from two overs.
So far there have only been two century partnerships in this tournament, both of them having been scored by South Africa. Moreover, with Kallis and Cronje both climbing into some indifferent bowling and with Daryll Cullinan continuing his poor form with a duck, the only surprise was the cheap dismissal of Lance Klusener for four, following his promotion to three in the order.
It was the first time Klusener had been dismissed in 10 one-day knocks (the previous time was also against New Zealand) and the role of cultured playmaker, rather than that of dashing blacksmith, obviously unnerved him. Certainly the ball from Larsen that bowled him did little but travel in a straight line which, considering he missed it by three inches, defied explanation.
But if the spectators missed out on his big hitting, Larsen's favourite charity will have gained, after a tabloid newspaper put up pounds 1,000 for the first man to take Mr Thunderbat's wicket. On the day it was New Zealand's only triumph, and they must now outplay India at Trent Bridge tomorrow to have any chance of staying in this World Cup.
Cape crusader hits form;
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