Sydney: Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar praised New Zealand for playing "outstanding" cricket throughout the World Cup, saying the Kiwis thoroughly deserved to be in the final after edging past South Africa in a battle of nerves at Auckland today.
Playing in their seventh World Cup semi-final, New Zealand, who have been unbeaten in their 8 games so far, finally crossed the last-four hurdle against a choking South Africa as the Brendan McCullum-led side won a nail-biting contest by four wickets.
"They (New Zealand) kept their cool, they kept their nerve, which South Africa didn't. New Zealand thoroughly deserved to get into the final because they have played outstanding cricket right throughout this tournament," Gavaskar told a leading english news channel.
South Africa, who won their first knockout match in the 50-over showpiece event after getting past Sri Lanka last week, tripped after pressure got the better of the AB de Villers-led side. Gavaskar said that the Proteas once again messed up a good opportunity.
"It was not just the missed catch of Grant Elliott but they messed up the run out opportunities. So certainly the nerves got the better of South Africans, which has happened in the past as well.
"But I think what they can take out of this tournament is atleast they made some progress. they were losing in the first round or the quarterfinals and this time they have won the quarterfinal," said the cricket-turned-analyst.
Chasing a Duckworth-Lewis revised target of 298 in 43 overs, the Brendan McCullum-led side rode on an unbeaten 84 from Grant Elliott to reach their target with a ball to spare.
It was ironic that the Johannesburg-born Elliott, 36, played a stellar knock to push his country of birth out of the World Cup race.
"Atleast there was one South African who doesn't not choke," Gavaskar said toungue-in-cheek.
"The way he was playing from the 30th over onwards, tapping the ball all along. But the moment he realised that he has not given Corey Anderson enough strike and it was up to him to finish off the match he got going. He looked a bit apprehensive against Steyn, but when it mattered his nerves stayed calm. So credit to him, he won the game," Gavaskar said in praise of the middlle-order batsman.