It seemed odd that JP Duminy was chosen as the player-of-the-match at the end of an absolute thriller between New Zealand and South Africa at Chittagong on March 24, 2014. In fact the award should have gone to Dale Steyn for making the real difference. Steyn, single-handedly spoiled New Zealand’s party and brought cheers for South Africa in a controlled display of accurate pace bowling at death. This is not to take the credit away from the outstanding Duminy, who was largely instrumental in pushing the score to 170. The award panel was probably influenced by Duminy’s invaluable 43-ball 86 to South African batting, after most top-ranked batsmen got out cheaply. But what Dale Steyn did, was out-of-the-world and even Duminy would approve of Steyn’s rightful claim for the award. And why Duminy; ask any New-Zealander and he would be emphatic on yesterday’s man-of-the-day in Chittagong.
With 18 balls left, New Zealand required 29 runs for victory. Skipper Faf du Plessis had Steyn to bowl 12 of those 18 balls but his real problem was finding someone equally good for the 6 balls of the 19th over. On the third ball of the 17th over, Imran Tahir had taken Colin Munro’s wicket, when the batsman holed out to Hashim Amla in the deep. But since Munro had crossed ends, Tahir’s last three balls were negotiated by the feared Ross Taylor. To Tahir’s credit, he bowled two dot balls to Taylor and conceded just 2 off the last. Steyn was lucky to be starting the 18th over to new man Corey Anderson, not a mean batsman in his own right but he was suddenly exposed to a pressure situation. Anderson clipped Steyn’s first ball away on the leg side and took 2. On the second ball, Anderson went for a blinder, which took a big top edge, with the ball flying over the keeper’s head for four. Quinton Kock could only get his fingers brushing the ball. With 6 coming from first two balls, Anderson went for another heave on Steyn’s third ball. But the flier went straight to Miller at long-on and that was the end of Anderson. The batsmen crossing over during the lofted shot brought Taylor facing Steyn next. The fourth and fifth balls were dots to South Africa’s great relief but Taylor stole 2 runs off the last. Now 12 balls remained for the Kiwis to score 21 with a welcome relief from Steyn in the 19th over. Despite Morne Morkel having been mercilessly hammered by Taylor early on, du Plessis had no options but to call him yet again. Morkel’s first ball was hit for four by new man Luke Ronchi. Then Ronchi and Taylor ran a single off the second ball and this brought the dangerous Taylor to face Morkel. When Taylor hit another boundary and Morkel’s next ball was called wide, the match swung in favor of New Zealand with 11 were needed from 9 balls. Never in the past had Morne Morkel faced such onslaught as here in Chittagong, where his 3 overs went for 50 runs. But Morkel suddenly produced 2 dot balls, before being struck for 4 on the last.
7 were needed from the last over and celebrations began in New Zealand dressing room. It was now Dale Steyn against New Zealand. Facing him was Luke Ronchi, who wanted to whack the first ball away on the off-side but the ensuing top edge was brilliantly held behind the stumps by the diving Kock. Steyn’s second ball came to the new man Nathan McCullum at 143 kph and the third at 148, both too fast for him to make any contact. Steyn had successfully prevented any scoring so far but Nathan McCullum’s boundary off the fourth ball took the breath away from South African supporters. With 3 runs required of the last 2 balls, it looked easy for New Zealand. But Steyn was not finished yet. He got rid of McCullum with his fifth ball, as the batsman top-edged over extra cover, where Plessis finished an easy catch. With ends switched and the match poised on the brink, Steyn had Taylor facing the last ball. Steyn bowled away from the off stump and Taylor had no choice but to play it back to Steyn, who picked the ball on his follow-through and ran Taylor out, striking the stumps with the ball in his hand. Taylor was too far behind to gain ground. It was all over. From jaws of defeat, Dale Steyn had forked out a truly marvelous victory for South Africa to the big disappointment of New Zealand. Producing 5 dot balls in the final over is an incredible achievement and if such performance leads to a breathtaking narrow win, the team’s joy becomes boundless.
The next match was a no-contest game between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. If the Dutch heroics against Ireland were historical, then they made another history. Against the mighty Sri Lankan bowlers, Netherlands were bowled out in 10.3 overs for just 39, the lowest score in T20 World Cup. Sri Lanka took just 5 overs and 24 minutes to chase the target, winning the game by 9 wickets.
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