A late week at work allowed me to watch the last few hours of the New Zealand v South Africa World Cup semi-final today and what a classic it was.
There was brilliant batting, incisive bowling, wonderful fielding and in all honesty, a game that neither side deserved to lose. I felt that had rain not intervened, South Africa may have posted close to 350 and the battle between two fine batting sides was impressive.
David Miller played a terrific innings, as did AB de Villiers and Francois du Plessis, but the start given by Brendan McCullum meant that New Zealand were always up there. McCullum is an extraordinary hitter, probably only surpassed by Chris Gayle and certainly more mobile than the West Indian now.
Yet it was quite telling that the Kiwi success was built on two 'lesser lights' after all of their much vaunted top four were back in the pavilion. Martin Guptill was sold down the river by Ross Taylor and there's room for improvement in the running between the wickets of the two players when together. Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson did a terrific job in consolidating and building the innings and it was fitting that Elliott, who looks as if he will be a good asset to Leicestershire in the T20 Blast this summer, turned into a hero, as he bludgeoned Dayle Steyn over the boundary for the winning six in an extraordinary finish.
South Africa will look back on opportunities missed. Elliott should have been run out and there were a few errors crept in to an otherwise brilliant fielding effort. AB proved he can bowl as well as field brilliantly, bat and keep wicket, so is pretty much the complete cricketer. He also showed dignity in defeat but after an outstanding tournament didn't deserve to come out a loser.
Yet for New Zealand it is their first final and fair play to them for a competition in which they have played aggressive, dynamic cricket of the kind I hope to see us play this summer. I expect them to meet Australia, who are a better all-round side than India. The latter's batting is often a thing of genius and brilliance, but they will need it as I don't think their bowling in the same class. Australia's hitters will take advantage of a largely pop gun seam attack and Ashwin will have to produce something special to keep them to a manageable total.
If they can put Australia in and keep them to less than 300, India will have a chance, but I expect an Australia/New Zealand final, which is what I suggested before it all started, what seems like a year ago. There have been shorter wars than this World Cup and while I have a lot of sympathy for Ireland in particular, who looked a better side than associate status suggested, there were too many largely meaningless games that were easily identifiable by sparse crowds.
In closing, congratulations to New Zealand. I like them as a side and have huge respect for a lot of their players. Daniel Vettori is still as resourceful a player as there is in the world game and a pleasure to watch twirling away, while Trent Boult looks a really high quality seam bowler.
And to be very parochial about it all, how nice would it be if one of our own was a World Cup winner?
If that happened, I don't think Martin Guptill will need a flight to get here. He will float on air...
Postscript...three wickets in the Sheffield Shield final for Nathan Rimmington, in a game that has almost redefined 'attritional'. Victoria need only to avoid defeat to take the trophy and seem to have set that out as their game plan. A draw looks likely, but let's hope for success for another of our players eh?