2nd Final: New Zealand v South Africa at Sydney, 8 Feb 2002|
New Zealand innings:
South Africa innings:
PROTEAS POWER TO SERIES TRIUMPH|
Hailstones, cyclonic hitting from Chris Cairns and Lou Vincent, and some searing pace bowling from Andre Adams all thwarted their progress. But South Africa's cricketers have weathered a series of storms in Sydney today to defeat New Zealand by six wickets and deservedly be crowned VB Series champions for 2001-02.
That the match began in sunny conditions - rather than the bleak ones which had been forecast - was initially a prospect to warm the hearts of New Zealand's supporters. For any kind of cancellation would have been a disastrous blow to their team's aspirations of pegging back a 1-0 deficit in these best-of-three deciders.
Yet they would ultimately have preferred for Sydney's near-ceaseless rain to have wiped out the match entirely.
Because the domination of the South African pace attack over a shaky New Zealand upper order was again transparent as soon as the match commenced.
A mid-afternoon downpour that mixed rainfall of varying power with thunder and lightning (as well as a galaxy of milky-white hailstones, some as big as golf balls in dimension) arrived to provide welcome respite for as many as 91 minutes. But, by that time, the Black Caps' line-up had all but imploded in any case.
After Vincent (43) and Nathan Astle (7) were forced into eating up 25 consecutive dot balls at the start of the innings, the latter lost patience to swing a catch off Shaun Pollock (1/24) to deep square leg. Therein, he set the trend for batting that was never disciplined enough to suit the circumstances.
Adams (1), promoted to the number three slot, nibbled at a Makhaya Ntini (1/45) leg cutter to offer a catch that wicketkeeper Mark Boucher claimed spectacularly to his right. Vincent, after a flurry of thrilling strokes, lobbed a ball to wide mid on; Stephen Fleming (17) was brilliantly caught at short fine leg; and Craig McMillan (0) top edged with a pull to mid wicket.
Fleming's victory at the toss represented not so much a prize as a poisoned chalice. Half of his batting line-up had been wiped out in less than 16 overs.
All-rounder Cairns (57) replied to the crisis with customary aplomb and received fine support from that other beacon of middle order defiance, Chris Harris (31), as the pair mounted a plucky 75-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
But, all around them, wickets were crashing with a haste that was indecent for a finals match.
After Harris was trapped lbw, Adam Parore (0) chipped a catch to mid wicket; Daniel Vettori (3) was caught shuffling across the crease by Allan Donald (3/29); James Franklin (0) was deceived by a perfect inswinger, and Cairns drove a catch to long on from Jacques Kallis (3/23) with as many as 29 deliveries still available.
South African bowlers twice found themselves on hat-tricks: Lance Klusener (2/30) firing Harris and Parore back to the pavilion from successive balls before Donald condemned Vettori and Franklin to the same predicament.
Cairns and Vincent bravely attempted to hit their team out of trouble, the latter even launching two of the most extraordinary shots of the series in the process - one used to hoist a full delivery from Pollock over the mid on fence with a belligerent drive and the second inspiring the same result with a pull from head height at Ntini.
But the necessary support to take the total beyond a paltry 175 never arrived.
It couldn't be said that their bowling at either end of the innings necessarily won them the series. Because there were, in truth, a range of factors which led to their triumph. Yet it all but ensured that the Proteas couldn't lose it. It was another magnificent alliance of sustained pace and unerring control.
As they chased a revised target of 172 from a maximum 46 overs under the Duckworth/Lewis method, the South Africans' victory plans were briefly threatened by a fine early spell from Adams (2/33). The young right armer from Auckland exploited variable bounce from a grassless and surprisingly dry pitch, teasing Kallis (10) into outside edging with an off drive and then forcing an aggressive Herschelle Gibbs (46) to inside edge back into his stumps.
But he lost a chance to seize a third wicket when Boeta Dippenaar (29) - with his score at 3 - cut through the hands of Harris in the gully. It was effectively the end of the contest too.
Joined by Jonty Rhodes (61*), Dippenaar proceeded to form one half of a 73-run fourth wicket alliance that masterfully powered the Proteas toward their win - one ultimately achieved with a whopping 47 deliveries to spare.
While there were as many as 30,684 spectators at the ground to see it, the finish of the match was not quite played out amid the electrical atmosphere that it might have deserved. All the same, though, the South Africans stormed to the line in a manner that befitted their status as the best team of the series.
After new ball bowler Shane Bond created early problems, Auckland right armer Adams struck two crucial complementary blows when he found the outside edge of a driving Jacques Kallis (10) and then an inside edge on to the stumps of Herschelle Gibbs (46).
And there might have been even more joy for him if a ball had not burst through the hands of Chris Harris, as he attempted to intercept a powerful cut from the blade of Boeta Dippenaar (18*), high and fractionally to his right at backward point. Dippenaar's score was on just 3 at the time, and Adams was in the midst of a spell in which he was expertly exploiting signs of occasionally variable bounce from the Paddington End at that stage.
But the chance escaped the Black Caps and, so it seemed, did hopes of making a much-needed succession of breakthroughs.
Jonty Rhodes (32*), not for the first time in recent battles between the teams, has been a particular stumbling block. He was quickly into stride with two delightfully driven boundaries and has rarely relented his scoring pace since with a battery of shots into gaps in an only partially-spread New Zealand field. Characteristically, his running between the wickets has also been outstanding.
Dippenaar, the beneficiary of an early dice with death for the second time in successive matches, has also blossomed to play an attractive albeit unhurried innings.
And, for as long as they remain together, so the New Zealanders' hopes of causing any kind of upset in this match are fading away rapidly.
Opening batsmen Herschelle Gibbs (46*) and Gary Kirsten (2) examined the early bowling with care, playing out a maiden as Shane Bond began with the new ball and then not issuing a scoring stroke off the bat until the 19th delivery of the innings. But, with the New Zealanders surrendering a number of early wides and increasingly losing both length and direction, runs began to rocket off the bat soon enough.
Gibbs was in command from early in the piece, driving delightfully off the front foot and playing with even more control from the back. A veritable series of scorching cuts and pulls littered the opening stages of the innings.
And, while Kirsten made little impression on the total before edging a full ball from Bond to wicketkeeper Adam Parore, the fact that that the duo remained together until the ninth over of the innings ensured that they were able to register their fourth half-century stand of the series.
Jacques Kallis (10) also fell to a mistimed drive, and a thin outside edge to the 'keeper, after one of his few brief stays at the crease for the series.
But, while Andre Adams has produced the occasionally lively response from the pitch and Bond has remained a danger with his searing pace and his ability to harness outswing at times with the new ball, the New Zealanders have been badly hampered by a lack of support for that pair.
Left arm paceman James Franklin conceded as many as 17 runs from his second over at the Paddington End, and left arm spinner Daniel Vettori fared little better in surrendering 15 from his pair of overs before being replaced.
There are hints that more rain may be heading toward the SCG but, for the moment at least, conditions remain fine.
On either side of a voracious mid-afternoon thunderstorm that deprived the game of 91 minutes of activity and reduced it to a 46-overs-per-side affair, the New Zealanders found little way of rewarding captain Stephen Fleming's victory at the toss.
Cairns (57) replied to potential crisis with customary aplomb and received fine support from that other doyen of middle order defiance, Chris Harris (31). Few risks were taken and the collection of singles was a pre-occupation as the pair advanced the total to 147 with a game 75-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
But, all around their joint vigil, wickets were crashing with a haste that was indecent for a finals match. After Lou Vincent (43) and Nathan Astle (7) were forced into eating up 25 consecutive dot balls at the start of the innings, the latter lost patience to swing a catch to deep square leg.
Therein, he set the trend for batting that was never disciplined enough to suit the circumstances.
Andre Adams (1), promoted to the number three slot, nibbled at a Makhaya Ntini (1/45) leg cutter to edge a catch to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. Vincent, after a flurry of thrilling strokes, lobbed a catch to wide mid on; Fleming (17) was spectacularly caught at short fine leg; and Craig McMillan (0) top edged with a pull to mid wicket.
After Harris was trapped lbw, Adam Parore (0) chipped a catch to mid wicket; Daniel Vettori (3) was caught shuffling across the crease; James Franklin (0) was deceived by a perfect inswinger, and Cairns drove a catch to long on from Jacques Kallis (3/23) with as many as 29 deliveries still available.
South African bowlers twice found themselves on hat-tricks: Lance Klusener (2/30) firing Harris and Parore back to the pavilion from successive balls before Allan Donald (3/29) forced the same predicament upon Vettori and Franklin.
If it had not been for admirable resistance from number eleven Shane Bond (5*), then a frustrated Cairns would have been left with little more to do than watch the innings implode from the other end. As it was, even their addition of a useful 18 runs for the final wicket didn't alter the trend of the game too greatly.
The Black Caps, essentially unravelling again at the hands of sophisticated pace bowling on a pitch that provided seam movement on no more than a fleeting basis, were in trouble throughout.
Their victory aspirations will rest on a penetrative bowling performance from their pacemen early in the evening session. More specifically, it appears that their main hopes lie in snatching a succession of quick wickets and in choking the early life out of South Africa's pursuit of a revised target of 172. It's that prospect, more rain, or bust now for the Black Caps.
On another day of remarkable weather in the New South Wales capital, the possibility of any resumption at all had appeared bleak at various moments of the break. Two heavy downpours - and even a sustained a burst of hail - hit the ground, leaving it not only awash with puddles but also decorated by a galaxy of hailstones, some as big as golf balls in dimension.
Eventually, though, the rains and the black skies cleared; the floodwaters receded; and the hailstones melted under the effect of a re-awakening sun.
It all enabled a re-start at 5:17pm, and developments upon the players' return would have helped to restore at least some confidence in the New Zealand dressing room. From murky depths at 5/75 after 16.1 overs, the pair worked determinedly to offset the effect of the rapid surrender of wickets earlier in the innings. Cairns has mixed the occasional aggressive swing with careful working of the ball into gaps, while Harris' pre-occupation has been to collect singles at will.
Following the long interruption, the match was reduced to a 46-over-a-side affair with the dinner break cut to 30 minutes and the scheduled finishing time extended by half an hour.
Given that four overs have already been wiped from New Zealand's original allocation, Duckworth/Lewis calculations will be used in the interval between innings to determine South Africa's target.
In stark contrast to a forecast that had predicted the continuation of close to a week of rain in Sydney, the match began under brilliant blue skies. But, as New Zealand's upper order receded, so did the prospect that such conditions would last for long.
After only 76 minutes of play, umpires Simon Taufel and Steve Davis conferred and elected to call a halt to proceedings under the threat of dark skies and impending rain.
Only a few minutes later, the ground was hit by a fierce storm with light rain giving way to two heavy downpours, one of which even spectacularly adorned the ground with bright white hailstones. Lightning was also consistently seen over Sydney's eastern suburbs for a period of around five to ten minutes.
After around 45 minutes, the rain and charcoal-coloured skies gave way to fine weather again, promoting the encouraging sight of the groundstaff moving in to remove the covers.
But there is already an enormous amount of mopping up awaiting them, and still the prospect that more rain may move in later in the day.
Earlier, only Lou Vincent (43) showed the sort of batting that might have been required to push the New Zealanders toward a satisfactory total. Around him, Stephen Fleming (17), Nathan Astle (7) and Andre Adams (1) all succumbed to poor strokes inside the first 15 overs.
And then, just before the stoppage, Craig McMillan (0) fell to a top-edged pull to mid wicket to exacerbate the Kiwis' grim position.
In view of his team's difficulty in mounting a challenging target in the previous match of this best-of-three duel - and against the backdrop of a general lack of certainty about what the pitch might do today - New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming appeared to take something of a risk by deciding to bat upon winning the toss.
And so it proved. For the Kiwis were forced into an agonisingly defensive mindset as play commenced.
As many as 25 deliveries were eaten up in the form of dot balls as the match began with both Lou Vincent (43) and Nathan Astle (7) struggling to unearth a method of hitting deliveries from opening bowlers Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini off the square.
And, even when the score did eventually start moving - to a raucous cheer from a respectably-sized crowd - there was nothing too convincing about their progress.
Vincent opened his account with a frustrated pull over mid wicket and then Astle responded to the sudden upsurge in tempo by driving through the hands of Pollock to the long off fence.
Vincent's next scoring stroke came as he drove wildly at Ntini to send the ball spearing over the head of wicketkeeper Mark Boucher to the fence, and then an attempt at a quick single to Jonty Rhodes at cover point resulted in an anxious moment for Astle as he watched the ball just miss the stumps from well out of his crease.
Astle duly added further lustre to the quality of the Proteas' start when he lifted a Pollock delivery over square leg from the line of leg stump and planted it straight in the hands of Lance Klusener waiting a casual ten metres in from the rope.
Pinch hitter Andre Adams (1) also struggled to adapt to his new role at number three, surviving the referral of a run out decision to the third umpire before he had scored but then perishing swiftly anyway when he followed a leg cutter from Ntini, outside edged, and was spectacularly caught by Boucher to his right.
Vincent responded to the sight of the respective downfalls of his two partners, and the sight of a quickly darkening skyline, by launching a furious but all-too-brief counter-attack. Having experienced a perilously close shave with his score at 0 as a bottom edged pull landed the ball only inches short of Boucher, and also been dropped at 14 by Pollock diving to his left at mid off, the impudent right hander made the most of the situation by suddenly pulling, cutting, and driving with audacious intent.
Two incredible sixes came, with a mixture of driving and pulling, over mid on and there were also crisply struck pulls to the mid wicket fence and another pair of drives that ploughed the ball for four to long off.
Yet it still appeared that he was batting on a death wish, and his fatal error duly came in the 14th over when he tried without success to blast a ball from Jacques Kallis over mid on.
When Boeta Dippenaar anticipated brilliantly, hurled himself to his left brilliantly, and held on brilliantly to a catch, as Fleming (17) pulled to short fine leg off the bowling of Allan Donald, the New Zealanders had crashed to a dismal 4/68.
With a series of storm clouds starting to roll in quickly from the south, things are already looking gloomy for them.
Sydney has been the subject of drenching rain for much of the last week, prompting fears over recent days that this game may have been the subject of a cancellation. But a break in the weather pattern late yesterday afternoon, followed by sunshine across the city today, has produced the possibility of an on-time start.
Enormous credit that this is even conceivable must also be paid to the SCG groundstaff, whose novel methods of dealing with a series of bucketing downpours even extended to the placement of a marquee over a part of the wicket square earlier in the week.
All of these developments should provide particular heart to the New Zealanders, whose chances of winning the series outright would have disappeared with the elimination of the second of these best-of-three deciders. And there's been another welcome boost for them with the news that captain Stephen Fleming's midas touch at the toss this summer has continued, giving them the chance to bat first today and potentially set the Proteas a challenging target.
No-one is quite sure how the pitch - sheltered from the elements as it has been for most of the week - will play, though it is essentially devoid of grass and seems to the naked eye to be quite dry in texture. The wicket square itself also carries a much different look from earlier in the summer, with a mass of sand smattered over the ground to both sides of the pitch.
At the respective selection tables, just one change has been made. New Zealand all-rounder Dion Nash, having strained an abdominal muscle in his team's loss in the first final in Melbourne on Wednesday, surrenders his place to young left arm paceman James Franklin. The South African selectors, meanwhile, have retained their faith in the eleven that coasted to an eight wicket win in that match.
Date-stamped : 08 Feb2002 - 14:40