Auckland, Mar 24: A sensational win over South Africa in the heart-stopping semifinal has given New Zealand their maiden entry into the cricket World Cup final, a moment which victorious captain Brendon McCullum described as the "greatest time" of their lives. (From Twitter: Fans reaction after New Zealand beat South Africa)
New Zealand recorded a historic four-wicket win over a fighting South Africa in a thrilling match to reach the final of the World Cup for the first time. And McCullum said all the players involved in the match will remember the contest for their lives.
"South Africa gave as good as they got all day. It was a great advertisement for cricket. Everybody involved will remember this for the rest of their lives, (It is) the greatest time of our lives. We have enjoyed the experience. The crowds that have turned, the brand of cricket we have tried to play," McCullum said after the win at the Eden Park here today.
But contrary to the result, South Africa were cruising at one stage when AB De Villiers was on song after opting to bat but rain halted their progress.
Asked what he was thinking at that time, the Kiwi skipper said, "Keep raining is what I thought when AB was going."
"The way we kept giving it in the field, the way we bowled, we did good. Even with the bat. We wanted to hang in till the end. What a great innings from Grant (Elliott). He came out of wilderness not long ago."
Chasing a stiff target of 298 runs in 43 overs under the Duckworth/Lewis rule in the rain-curtailed game, New Zealand rode on Elliott's match-winning unbeaten 84 run knock to scamper home with one ball to spare.
But it was McCullum himself who set the base for the chase with a quickfire 59 off 26 balls up the order. Asked about his own fiery knock at the top, McCullum said, "We had to generate some sort of run-rate early, that is what we tried to go. Credit to South Africa the way they played tonight and throughout the tournament."
McCullum said his team was not thinking of any preferred rival from India and Australia, in Sunday's final at Melbourne. "Hope the crowds are all dreaming the way we are. Getting it (World Cup) would be nice.
We don't mind whom we face in the final. They are both quality sides, but we know if we play the way we want to we have a good chance. Really proud to represent New Zealand," he said.
'It is the first final we have been in'
De Villiers broke down after the defeat along with De Villiers broke down after the defeat along with teammate Morne Morkel but the South African captain said he has no regrets as they have played their heart out in the tournament.
"It was an amazing game of cricket. Probably the most electric crowd I have ever heard in my life. I guess the best team has come out on top. We gave it our best. No regrets. We left it all out there. It is hurting. It is going to take a while to recover. Worst of all is we don't play for ourselves," De Villiers said.
"The bigger picture is for the people back home. We play for them. I hope they can still be proud of us. There have been great performances. I felt we had a wonderful thing going," he said.
Man-of-the-match Elliott, who showed nerves of steel as to guide his side to a memorable win, dedicated the victory to his countrymen.
"It's great. I don't think this win is for myself or the team, but everyone here. The supporters have been amazing. We wanted to take it as deep as we could," he said.
Talking about his 103-run partnership with Corey Anderson (58), Elliot said, "I think we timed the pace of the innings to perfection. Not as calm as I looked.
When you have 45000 fans screaming at you every ball... It has been an absolute pleasure playing in front of this crowd. We have had a good run."
Elliot, who finished the match a six off Dale Steyn, said they would approach the title clash like a normal game.
"It is the first final we have been in as New Zealand. We are a very level team, we will approach it as any other game."
Asked what he was thinking before the winning shot, Elliot said, "Nothing going in my mind when I hit the six. I don't even know where the ball went."