World T20 Score: Unstoppable Steyn Inspires South Africa to Stunning Victory over New Zealand
By Deepak Vikraman | March 25, 2014 12:15 AM EST
T20 cricket is a batsman's game they say. Just don't tell that to Dale Steyn, or indeed any batsman who has to face that unrelenting, unbelievable, unstoppable South African marauder.
Courtesy another bowling masterclass from the world's best bowler, South Africa, in desperate need of a victory in the World T20, scampered home by two runs over New Zealand, who would be left wondering at the end just what went wrong, even if the answer was pretty simple - Steyn.
The South Africa pace bowler was unplayable, charged-up and zoned in, finishing with ridiculous figures of 4-0-17-4, of which he conceded just four runs in the last over, when New Zealand required a mere seven for a win.
Asked to bat first, South Africa were meandering towards a nowhere total, before man of the match JP Duminy (86 in 43) caught fire in some style to help his team to 170.
New Zealand's players of the summer Kane Williamson (51) and Ross Taylor (62) were seemingly taking the Kiwis to a comfortable victory, with the latter looking in outstanding touch, before the Steyn monster came to knock everyone out of the stratosphere.
Kane Williamson was the aggressor at the start for New Zealand, as Martin Guptill struggled to find the boundary balls. The latter, despite a couple of decent fours in the first six overs, never quite looked at his best, and it was not that surprising when Guptill (22, 25b, 3x4) fell in the first ball of the eighth over, top-edging a pull shot off Albie Morkel.
Brendon McCullum's couple of invaluable sixes had given New Zealand a win over England in their first match, but there was to be no crackerjack innings from the Kiwi skipper this time around, as he fell to the guiles of Imran Tahir (two for 27) - stumped by Quinton De Kock after McCullum failed to make contact while hopping out of the crease.
The good thing about this New Zealand side, though, is that they have tremendous ammunition in their batting lineup, with pretty much every batsman in great form.
While Williamson kept making T20 cricket look like child's play at one end, Taylor came in and unleashed a mountain of strokes, to completely tilt the balance in New Zealand's favour.
NZ needed 105 runs from the final 11.2 overs when McCullum got out, but Taylor and Williamson allied for a match-turning partnership of 51 from just 4.5 overs to take the game out of SA's reach, or at least that's what everyone thought.
Williamson (51, 35b, 5x4, 2x6) fell to Steyn in the 14th over after a wonderful half-century, his first in T20Is, but with Taylor (62 n.o., 37b, 4x4, 3x6) in the mood that he was in, New Zealand were still the heavy favourites, needing 54 runs in 39 deliveries.
A couple of flutters followed, with Colin Munro and Corey Anderson picked up by South Africa's two best bowlers on the day - Tahir and Steyn.
Steyn's brilliant 18th over - even Taylor could not get bat on ball for much of that over -- set the game up wonderfully with New Zealand needing 21 from the final 12 balls.
The gauntlet was thrown at Morne Morkel, who was probably still reeling from a nightmare two overs, where he conceded 36 runs, to give Steyn something to play with in the final over. However, Morkel's I-wanna-get-out-of-here-day refused to improve, as the fast bowler conceded 14 runs, meaning NZ needed just seven runs from the final over.
Steyn, eyes zoned in, giving Ronchi the death stare, picked up the NZ wicketkeeper in the first ball, with De Kock completing a brilliant one-handed catch. Nathan McCullum came in looking like he wanted to be anywhere but here, missed two deliveries, and then delivered a boundary, which put New Zealand on top needing three from the last two.
But Steyn is Steyn, and there really is nobody like him in world cricket. The SA pacer picked up Nathan McCullum - Faf Du Plessis completing another wonderful catch - before stopping Ross I-was-hitting-boundaries-for-fun from scoring at least two in the final ball to give South Africa a stunning two-run victory, as New Zealand finished on 168 for eight.
South Africa ambled along for much of the first innings, a bit like West Indies against India on Sunday, unable to find that impetus to kick the score to a competitive one.
However, just when it looked like they might have to settle for a score of around 140, at best, in stepped JP Duminy, who before that had seemingly tricked the Kiwis into thinking he was not finding the middle of the bat, and was pretty content at taking the ones and twos.
Duminy, of course, to a certain extent was forced to play such an innings first up, with South Africa losing wickets at regular intervals in the first ten overs. Quinton De Kock flattered to deceive yet again, edging one to wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi in the third over off Kylee Mills while going for a wild slog.
Faf Du Plessis had passed the fitness test earlier, and not wanting to run too much on the sore hamstring, decided to go slam-bang right from the off; but that never works out too often does it, and the SA skipper, after smashing a couple of consecutive boundaries off Tim Southee fell while failing to hit a lofted shot over cover.
With South Africa on 32 for two after five overs, some circumspection was needed, but the Proteas' premier batsman - AB De Villiers - failed to stick around long enough yet again, castled by an ecstatic Nathan McCullum, who was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 4-0-24-1.
In came Duminy to give the always calm Hashim Amla company, and while the two stitched together a crucial partnership of 55 from 7.2 overs, that spark towards an epic onslaught was still not overly visible.
Amla was dismissed by Corey Anderson in the most bizarre of fashions in the final ball of the 14th over. The right-hander smashed one straight back past the bowler, but the ball decided to hit the shoulder of Duminy's bat and loop invitingly for Anderson to snare one of the luckiest wickets he will ever get.
The dismissal of the opener seemed to make up Duminy's resolve to look to smash, drive, sweep, manoeuvre and pull every ball to the boundary, as the left-hander, supreme in the final five overs, jumped from 35 in 25 balls to an eventual unbeaten 86 (43b, 10x4, 3x6). The last 30 balls went for a stunning 70 runs, which gave the likes of Steyn and co. at least a realistic chance at defending the total, which they did in dramatic fashion.
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