The shot of my life? I guess it is, says Grant Elliott after firing New Zealand to World Cup final
They don't come any more laid back and relaxed than Grant Elliott, but the Black Caps' match winner admitted to being a bundle of nerves as he faced Dale Steyn in the final over of New Zealand's thrilling Cricket World Cup semifinal win.
The equation was simple: two balls to go, one boundary required to beat South Africa and advance to New Zealand's first World Cup final.
The Black Caps needed five from two balls to chase down the target of 298 in 43 overs at Eden Park in Auckland, but Elliott, 36, is an experienced campaigner and knew all the angles.
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A four would do because New Zealand could advance in the event of a tie having finished higher up in their pool than the Proteas.
South Africa-born Elliott, who still speaks with his native accent but has been a New Zealander for a long time now, stepped in front of his stumps and hoisted South Africa's quickest bowler into the stands over long-on.
He raised his arms, 41,000 fans went crazy, and history was made with a four-wicket win, as New Zealand's tally of 299-6 from 42.5 overs was good enough to secure them a place in Sunday's final in Melbourne, against Australia or India, who play on Thursday.
The shot of his life?
"I guess it is," he replied.
"I really did feel the pressure. I knew I had two balls. Dan (Vettori) said we weren't going to run to the keeper again so I knew it was up to me. I knew that four runs would do it because a tie was as good as a win for us, so that was in the back of my mind.
"I've had relative success in T20 cricket for Wellington. I changed my game a little at the death when you can free yourself up. I was looking to hit that ball for six or four. I was going to line that ball up and where ever it was it was going over the boundary - hopefully.
"I didn't want to be there 70 not out - and not winning this game. That was not a position I wanted to be in.
"The chase, we probably left it a little late to be honest and it was stressful toward the end there."
Elliott felt a "release of emotion" after hitting the winning runs.
"Cricket's the sort of game where you have to be quite unemotional in your approach but it was a great feeling to look at the crowd and savour that moment and realise we're through to the final.
"I'm quite a level sort of person and I like to stay out of the media, but I guess it will sink in after the World Cup when I look back on it and savour those moments."
He had found ways to deal with the intense pressure matches like these generate.
"Once you're in the zone and playing with freedom, and you're not really thinking, it's a great game. It's just see the ball, hit the ball, and that's something you have to do towards the end.
"It was unfortunate that we needed 11 (to tie) off the last over because we left it too late but credit to South Africa, they're a world class team and they played a very good game."
Elliott showed his compassionate side when he went up to Steyn and offered words of encouragement, as the world class bowler lay disconsolate on the ground immediately after Elliott's dagger through South African hearts.
"I think you have to feel compassion and be humble in victory and humble in defeat. It's just part of who I am. I felt sorry for him and I felt sorry for a lot of them.
"It could have been us, it could have been me sitting there having missed the last couple of balls. I'd have been gutted as well."
He would not have talk of South Africa stumbling. The word choke is something that could not be applied to this Proteas team who contributed to one of the great World Cup matches.
"There are small moments in the game, some things just go against you. That's just cricket. You can't look at the result all the time."
New Zealand are through to their first final, having had six semifinal defeats previously, and they did it in style.
Their chase was the highest successful one in a World Cup knockout match, eclipsing Australia's 289-4 to beat New Zealand's 286-9 in Chennai in the 1996 quarterfinal but they could have been chasing much more.
When the rain arrived, South Africa were 216-3 after 38 overs and eyeing 350. Their innings was reduced to 43 overs and they amassed 281-5, which was only adjusted up 17 runs after Messers Duckworth and Lewis had worked their magic.
It certainly worked to New Zealand's advantage.
"I think it was a key moment," Elliott said of the two-hour delay. "You don't know what they would've scored but it was a really good batting wicket and they were set. 298 was still a tough score in 43 overs, though."
Elliott dedicated it to "the fans and the four million people in New Zealand".
"The support has been overwhelming and there has been a lot of talk about us just making the semis and never kicking on.
"I know it means a lot to them team but with the emotions in the stands it obviously means a lot to a lot of people."
He has some making up to do on the home front, though, as his sister is getting married on Friday and Elliott will now be unable to attend, for obvious reasons.
"My family was here … unfortunately I will miss her wedding. I'm going to have to give her a special gift, I think."
*What were your memories from an epic World Cup semifinal? Comment below.*