Black Caps Safely Through
New Zealand beat South Africa by five wickets to seal their semi-final spot and boost England's chances of joining them.
New Zealand coasted into the World Cup semi-finals with a five-wicket win over South Africa, after enjoying by far the better of conditions at Queen's Park.
The Kiwis – whose triumph also sends Sri Lanka into the last four – needed to pass only 193 for seven and did so with 10 balls to spare, on the back of half-centuries from Stephen Fleming (50) and Scott Styris (56).
Fleming's most telling contribution, however, was his simple decision to bowl first in this Super Eight match which was played under heavy cloud cover in the first innings – and none at all for most of the second.
The result was an unequal struggle for South African batsmen and a saunter in the sun for their Kiwi counterparts.
The best efforts of Herschelle Gibbs (60) could not address the imbalance on a slightly stodgy pitch which nonetheless offered a par total of around 240 under clear skies.
New Zealand might have had to work a little harder had South Africa helped themselves by taking all the chances that came their way in the field.
Instead, they made neither Fleming nor Styris pay for miscontrolled pulls at Andre Nel – the opener gloving behind on 24 only for Mark Boucher to fail to cling on and Ashwell Prince at fault when the number four had made just four.
Gibbs also provided Fleming with a more glaring let-off at point, but that was only 14 runs short of completing his 83-ball 50 and not long before the end of his 78-run stand with Styris.
The Black Caps did lose Peter Fulton, edging a drive at Makhaya Ntini to second slip, and Ross Taylor, who got one that nipped back enough from Nel to convince Mark Benson an lbw verdict was in order.
After Fleming had gone too – Boucher standing up and collecting a faulty cut at the first delivery of Shaun Pollock's second spell – Styris continued at the same tempo.
He recorded his fifth half-century of the competition and by the time he holed out off Robin Peterson, his 50 partnership with Craig McMillan had more or less ensured an unremarkable but most important win.
Gibbs had earlier begun his innings with Shane Bond and James Franklin in full cry, and three for two on the board at the end of the third over.
He shared stands of 49 with Jacques Kallis and then 76 with Prince to give South Africa a shot at a worthwhile total – only for the unlikely medium-pace of McMillan (three for 23) to stunt the fightback.
Gibbs and Kallis needed great tenacity and skill to prevent irreparable damage at the top of the order.
Ball habitually beat bat through the early overs, the swing available to Bond and Franklin aided and abetted by light showers which freshened up the pitch for seam movement and occasional steepling bounce.
In the circumstances, mere survival was a major achievement.
Graeme Smith failed to lay bat on ball in Bond's first over, until he tried to seize on the fifth delivery only to chisel a catch low to cover.
The captain at least managed to make a run, more than his opening partner AB de Villiers could do, before Franklin's inswing pinned him lbw on the front-foot defence.
Gibbs and Kallis then attempted nothing approaching an attacking shot until the former cover-drove Bond for the first boundary of the match deep into the 10th over.
Kallis went from four to 10, from the 36th ball he faced, when he went down the wicket to Jacob Oram and planted him into the stand at long-off.
Gibbs repeated the dose, over long-on, when he got to Oram's end.
But then Kallis failed to get to the pitch aiming a big hit at Daniel Vettori in the left-arm spinner's first over, and Bond took a well-judged catch under a high ball.
Gibbs continued to bat against type in an 84-ball 50 which contained just two fours and that six.
Yet just when it seemed he might be about to cash in, he was undone by McMillan's lack of pace and bounce – jamming a ball down on to his pad before it rolled back to disturb his stumps.
That was to be the first of three wickets to fall for just 21 runs to McMillan – Prince disappointingly chipping a catch to long-off and Boucher trying to go big but failing to beat the boundary fielder in the same position.
South Africa were left to rely on their famously deep batting resources, which on this occasion managed to grab 55 in the last 10 overs, with conditions already beginning to improve and hinting at an easy Kiwi chase.
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