NZ reaches World Cup final beating SAfrica in nailbiter

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) New Zealand reached its first Cricket World Cup final when Grant Elliott struck a six from the penultimate ball to beat South Africa by four wickets in a cliffhanger semifinal on Tuesday.

New Zealand came to the last over of a rain-shortened match needing 12 runs to reach its Duckworth-Lewis target of 298 from 43 overs, and made it with just one ball left at a raucous Eden Park.

In Sunday's final, New Zealand will face either Australia or India, who meet on Thursday.

''For the fans and the four million people in New Zealand ... that win's for them,'' Elliott said.

''There's been a lot of talking about us just making the semis, and never quite kicking on, and while I know it means a lot to the team, you could see the emotions in the stands today. It means a lot to a lot of people in New Zealand, and hopefully we can repay the faith in the final as well.''

Earlier, Faf du Plessis made 82, captain AB de Villiers 65 not out, and David Miller 49 from 18 balls as South Africa compiled 281-5 batting first, taking 65 runs from the five overs left to it after the rain.

New Zealand chased a revised total of 298, and reached that formidable objective with cricket fans of two nations holding their breath. The Kiwis were guided home by Elliott, with 84 not out, and Daniel Vettori, 7 not out.

South Africa was left despondent by a defeat which added to its catalog of woe in World Cup playoffs. Dale Steyn, who bowled the final over, collapsed to the ground in despair when Elliott sent his fifth ball into the stands at long-on.

''I felt we left it out on the field tonight, and that's all I can ask of the guys,'' de Villiers said, his voice cracking with emotion. ''We had our chances, especially in the second half of the game.

''Lots of people back home supporting us, we think of all of them, and it's so bad. We wanted to take that trophy back home, but life moves on, the sun will come up tomorrow.''

Brendon McCullum set the vigorous tempo of the New Zealand chase with an innings of 59 from 26 balls which contained eight fours and four sixes. With Martin Guptill, the captain put on 71 in the first five overs.

But the chase faltered when Morne Morkel, after conceding 14 runs from his first over, switched ends and removed McCullum, and bowled Kane Williamson for 6, at 81-2 in a spell of three overs in which he took 2-11.

No single player commanded the run chase after McCullum was out, and the required run-rate grew, at times to the visible alarm of home fans.

Corey Anderson made 58, and paired with Elliott in a partnership of 103 but, perhaps in a measure of the Kiwis' anxiety for the win that would finally break their history of six semifinal defeats, it seemed a work more of desperation than authority. Elliott reached a half century from 53 balls, and Anderson from 47 balls, with five fours and two sixes.

De Villiers superbly managed his team's defense of its total, using his bowlers on high rotation in one or two-over spells, but he was central to one of the turning points of the match when he botched the run out of Anderson.

With Anderson stranded halfway down the pitch and with the ball almost in his hand, de Villiers stumbled and somersaulted over the stumps, knocking off the bails and saving Anderson, the partnership, and New Zealand's hopes.

At 269-6, and out of specialist batsmen, New Zealand passed the chase to Vettori in his 294th one-day international. In the second-to-last over came another turning point, when Elliott was dropped by Farhaad Behardien, who collided in the outfield with JP Duminy.

Finally, 12 runs from the last over: It went bye, single, four from Vettori, single, Elliott the hero.

New Zealand's seven-match winning streak through the World Cup captivated the nation, and Tuesday's semifinal became the focus of all its hopes: Schools closed early, and businesses shut their doors to allow pupils and workers to watch the match along with 41,000 at Eden Park.

The rain threatened to cruelly distort the outcome, making New Zealand's target more onerous.

Earlier, du Plessis overcame a tentative beginning to lead South Africa's scoring in partnerships of 83 with Rilee Rossouw, and 103 from 72 balls with de Villiers. Miller's hard-hitting after the rain break turned South Africa's total into one which was almost too much for New Zealand.

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