Black Caps blow it against South Africa

HAMISH BIDWELL IN CHITTAGONG
Last updated 08:08 25/03/2014
Martin Guptill
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HITTING FORM: NZ batsman Martin Guptill has smashed 90 off 51 balls in the Caribbean Premier League.

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OPINION: There's the polite way and then there's the true way.

Let's face it, New Zealand absolutely bottled it against South Africa in the early hours of this morning.

The Black Caps had a chance to steer themselves towards a tilt at the World Twenty20 title. Instead they face the very real prospect of being eliminated in the group stage, after losing to the Proteas by two runs at Chittagong's Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium.

You can go on about the various bits of cricket during the 40 overs that could've played a part in the winning or losing of the game.

In the end, this all came down to New Zealand needing seven runs from the final six balls and only being able to manage four.

They lost three wickets in the process too, finishing at 168 for eight chasing 171 to win.

There's a school of thought in this business that you should rise above the kneejerk reaction and take a sober, more big-picture view.

But sometimes the pub or talkback radio test is the best one and there's no doubt that the folk who inhabit those worlds will be saying New Zealand choked on this occasion.

Even Black Caps opening batsman Martin Guptill said as much.

"Seven off six balls - you should win that every time. We took some bad decisions out there,'' Guptill told Fairfax Media.

The final over was a shocker. Luke Ronchi, who'd faced two balls to that point, took strike, with Ross Taylor 62 not out at the other end.

Ronchi gave himself room and looked to carve Steyn over the offside. All he got was a good nick, which is actually a useful scoring shot off Steyn but wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock took a sharp chance to his right.

Slightly wider of the keeper and it's four and, presumably, game over. This time it wasn't.

Nathan McCullum strode out and failed to connect with two shots identical to the one Ronchi played.

He then had a third go, which went for four, but the fourth attempt lobbed gently in the air and he was well caught.

That brought Taylor on strike, with three still needed for victory. He could only bunt the last ball back up the pitch to Steyn, who ran him out and then went mental.

Extra cover is one of McCullum's best scoring areas. It was unprotected and maybe worth having a dart at. Guptill, however, was more a fan of tip and run and getting Taylor on strike.

"We let that one get away and in the next game, if we get to that sort of situation, we need to get a bit smarter in our decision making and get the guy who's on 60-odd and going well [up the other end].''

Again, cricket's often one of those games where isolating a certain moment as being pivotal obscures other events that were just as crucial. There's no doubt, for instance, that most of the Black Caps did things in this game that they now regret.

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"Everyone can do that for every game. But I still think - seven off six - you're in a winnable position there, with wickets in hand as well,'' said Guptill.

It's a loss that's not only painful, but full of implications. Winning would've assured New Zealand of progressing to the semis - provided they beat a Netherlands team miles out of their depth, on Saturday - and eliminated South Africa from that equation in the process.

Now, having staved off the kind of capitulation they've become famous for at these events, South Africa ought to go on and join Sri Lanka as the semifinal qualifiers from Group 1.

- Fairfax Media

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