Auckland: New Zealand`s Grant Elliott realised a childhood dream when he belted South African speedster Dale Steyn into the stand for six at Eden Park on Tuesday to get his adopted homeland into the World Cup final.
South African-born Elliott gave a brief celebratory wave as the ball sailed into the crowd before running to comfort a distraught Steyn, who lay sprawled on the ground.
The winning runs came on the penultimate ball of the rain-affected match where New Zealand were set a revised target of 298 under the Duckworth/Lewis method after South Africa had made 281 for five.
The Black Caps will now meet the winner of Thursday`s Australia-India semi-final in Sydney, in Sunday`s final in Melbourne.
New Zealand needed 12 off the last over to win a thrilling semi-final and Elliott said it was a nerve-wracking experience sealing a four-wicket victory with probably the best shot of his career, given what was at stake.
"I guess it was. I really did feel the pressure," said Elliott, who finished on 84 not out. "I had two balls to try and take us home. I knew that four runs would do it because a tie was as good as a win.
"I think the chase, we probably left it a little bit late and it was stressful towards the end. It would have been nice to win with an over to go"
Elliott said he had always wanted to play in a World Cup since 1992 when his mother let him stay home to watch Australia play South Africa in Sydney in what was the Proteas` inaugural appearance at the tournament.
"I got suspended from cricket and from school for a while because I did that, but it left a massive impression on me," said Elliott, who turned 36 last weekend.
"I thought that tournament, the coloured clothing and everything was what I wanted to do and it`s funny how life works. It`s amazing to be at Eden Park today to hit the winning run."
Although Elliott has immersed himself in New Zealand culture since leaving South Africa in 2001, he said he still felt sorry for the Proteas, adding that was why he tried to console Steyn and helped him to his feet.
"You have to feel compassion. Humble in victory, humble in defeat. I felt quite sorry for him. I felt quite sorry for a lot of the South African guys for losing the game," said Elliott, who made his New Zealand debut seven years ago.
"It could have been us. It could have been me sitting there having missed the last two balls and I would have been pretty gutted as well along with 40,000 people in the stadium."
South Africa were on course for a huge total, at 216 for three in the 38th over, when the rain set in.
"That was a key moment in the game," Elliott said.
"You don`t know what they would have scored but it was a very good batting wicket and they were set.
"But 298 was a tough score in 43 overs as well."