Those who were at Eden Park last night will not forget what they witnessed; New Zealand prevailed in as thrilling a chase as can be imagined.

Remember not so long ago, 50-over cricket was dead, right? There was test cricket and T20 had the shorter form covered.

Those who held that view forgot that the ODI game offers teams a chance to recover from a jam, as T20 cricket so seldom does.

But you sensed, again, that this New Zealand team has something very special about it.

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They are imbued with a desire to do things their way, to express themselves and believe in what they can achieve, as their talismanic captain Brendon McCullum puts it.

One element which has underpinned their cup is that when a team mate has missed out, another will step up.

In earlier days at this tournament, it's been Kane Williamson, or Martin Guptill, or Corey Anderson who have done the job with the bat.

Last night it was man of the match Grant Elliott and Anderson who stood tallest on a night on spine-tingling tension.

They had a near capacity crowd willing them on and, with 23 needed off the last two overs, from the pace kings Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, it seemed they would fall just short.

To heck with that, as Elliott gained himself an everlasting place in the nation's cricket affections, slugging the mighty Steyn into the crowd over long on.

Arms aloft he and Dan Vettori rejoiced as their team mates hugged and leapt about in their dugout.

South African captain AB de Villiers admitted he's never felt worse on a cricket field yet, at Eden Park tonight, he still played a starring role in New Zealand's compelling one-day international victory with four wickets and a ball to spare. New Zealand advanced to Sunday's final in Melbourne.

South African players were motionless as if the enormity of what had gone wrong, hit them. Steyn was prone on the pitch.

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Afterwards AB de Villiers choked hard as the hurt sunk in. His heart had been set on getting his team to the final.

New Zealand have now won 10 ODIs in succession, a national record.

One more on Sunday will cap off a remarkable campaign.

But last night was easily among New Zealand's most memorable sporting occasions. One game will top it.

They will discover who their opponents in Melbourne next Sunday are when India play Australia clash in Sydney on Thursday.

That's for later.

Last night was simply so close, the best of sport.

Indeed, when you saw the range of emotions from players on both sides it was hard to think of a game to top it.

Rugby people will swear the 2011 World Cup final can't be beaten for drama and sheer occasion.

Black Caps fans go crazy as a ball is hit over the boundary during the New Zealand innings. Photo / Nick Reed
Black Caps fans go crazy as a ball is hit over the boundary during the New Zealand innings. Photo / Nick Reed

Fair enough, but to these eyes this was special. South Africa are a fine side. They could easily have won it at the death.

It meant so much to them. It just happened it was New Zealand's time.

This was sport in the raw. It doesn't get better.

Three clutch moments which went New Zealand's way

1: The rain

It arrived 38 overs into South Africa's innings when their foot was about to go down. AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis had got them to 216 for three. The launch pad was in place. The effect of the rain was South Africa were left only five more overs instead of 12. They plundered 65, courtesy chiefly of David Miller, but New Zealand really dodged a bullet. Before the rain, they were looking at a target in excess of 300.

2: The botched run out

In the 32nd over, with New Zealand 204 for four, Grant Elliott pushed a ball from Dale Steyn towards point, but sent the charging Corey Anderson back. The throw came back hard and low to de Villiers at the bowlers' end and, with Anderson, on 33, well out, he couldn't grasp it. The bails came off and as de Villiers tumbled forwards he was unable to remove a stump to complete the run out.

3: The collision

On 284 for six, the final ball of the penultimate 42nd over, Elliott pulls Morne Morkel high to deep square leg. Farhat Behardien runs in to take the catch, but JP Duminy sprinting in from fine leg to his right, puts Behardien off. He spills the chance and the pair collide. Two runs for Elliott.