New Zealand cricket fans were on the edge of their seats overnight as their team took on England in the World Cup final at Lord's. Here are five key steps which helped us reach the big dance.
1. Guppy runs out MS Dhoni
Martin Guptill could have been forgiven for singing Bob Marley's Redemption Song in the sheds after the nailbiting finish to the semifinal. Guptill's batting woes had been the talking point of the tournament leading up the semifinal — things were so bad his wife had to go into bat for him, figuratively that is. But Guppy turned it all inside out and upside down with an amazing throw to run out MS Dhoni by about 2cm. Dhoni, the majestic but ageing veteran of India's 21st century dominance, was at long odds to win the game single-handedly at that point but he was also the biggest threat to New Zealand's finals chance. If he'd made that run who knows what he might have done?
2. DRS says yes, Virat, you're out
Virat Kohli is some character. He personifies the evolution of Indian cricket and is the type of player who would seem happily at home in an Australian uniform — in a belligerent, egocentric, chest-pumping, strutting kind of way. He is India's hero — their captain, their best batsman, their talisman. And when Trent Boult trapped him LBW in the semifinal to have India reeling at 2-5 inside 16 balls it paved the way for victory. But first, New Zealand had to survive the DRS — cricket's form of a lie detector. The DRS (decision review system) said the ball was just clipping the top of the bails and Kohli was out. On that piece of technology hung everything. Kohli probably still believes he was not out and for India it will be their "Wayne Barnes missed a forward pass" moment.
3. Boult takes a catch on the boundary
This World Cup format — with every team playing the other — put pressure on teams to be consistent. If you're going to make the semifinals you have to beat the also-rans. And when New Zealand met the West Indies, the Windies had slipped below also-rans. They were practically on the way home. But all teams with nothing to play for are dangerous and New Zealand were on the verge of losing the unlosable game as Keith Brathwaite played one of the great World Cup innings to have the Windies on track for an improbable win that would have ended New Zealand's playoff hopes. His last blast looked fence-bound for a match-winning six but he didn't quite get enough on it. But wait, it was headed towards Boult, who'd dropped a pair of catches already. Would he hold his nerve? You'd better believe it. The catch stuck and New Zealand won by five runs.
4. It rained enough
Early on in this tournament, rain was having a big say. Perhaps the most critical match — in the long run — was the NZ-India washout in Nottingham. The single point New Zealand got from that non-game was enough to see them secure a semifinal on net run rate over Pakistan. And India's single point allowed them to top Australia and set up that semifinal with New Zealand. But way more importantly than a single point here and there, the washout meant India's batsmen didn't get a decent look at New Zealand's bowlers. And this was especially crucial for Kohli, who had skipped the bulk of a tour to New Zealand earlier this year to rest up for this World Cup. He could have done with another look at Trent Boult, eh?
5. Kane gets it done against SA
South Africa had a nightmare of a tournament — their ageing team started atrociously and only popped up at the end to beat Australia and keep the Aussies out of the No 1 spot on the ladder to prevent an NZ-Australia semifinal grudge match. And we thank them for that. But on the other hand, in another nailbiter, the Proteas posted what seemed like a chase-downable score but New Zealand made heavy weather of it until Kane "Steady the Ship" Williamson stepped into the breach and scored a fantastic century. His innings finished with a six followed by a match-winning four as New Zealand got home with three balls to spare. It was another crucial result and was one of the games of the tournament.
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT