Williamson scraps his way to glory

Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson salutes the crowd after bringing up his century in his side's...
Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson salutes the crowd after bringing up his century in his side's World Cup match against South Africa in Birmingham yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS
Review this - New Zealand clinched a dramatic four-wicket win against South Africa and has all but ended the Proteas' World Cup prospects.

It could have been so different had Faf du Plessis used the available review, though.

He did not and Kane Williamson was not in the mood to walk either.

In fact, the Black Caps captain could barely look anyone in the eye for a few panicked seconds.

That was because the replay showed he had got the faintest of bottom edges on Imran Tahir's final delivery.

While the leg-spinner was convinced - and when isn't he? - wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock did not even bother appealing.

Williamson got away with one. He was on 76 and went on to score the winning runs on his way to an undefeated 106.

It was not a fluent innings. Williamson struggled in patches and should have been run out in the 41st over.

But he did manage to finish with a flourish.

Andile Phehlukwayo, the man who claimed South Africa had the mental edge over New Zealand, was left to bowl the final over.

New Zealand needed eight to win and Williamson pounced, clouting Phehlukwayo's second delivery over midwicket for six to level the score and post his 12th one-day international century and first World Cup hundred.

The winning runs came from his trademark late cut which beat the field and ran away for a boundary.

Williamson collected the man of the match award, du Plessis was left wondering what if.

The South African skipper has previously scoffed at the honest way New Zealand approaches its cricket. He might not feel that way any more.

Williamson is entitled and, some might argue, compelled to stand his ground.

But had he been given out, South Africa would have been well-placed to defend its total of 241 for six.

Under-pressure Black Caps all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme could easily have picked up the player of the match award as well.

He bowled in tandem with Mitchell Santner and the pair kept the Proteas pinned down.

His one for 33 was an excellent effort and he underlined his value to the side with a critical innings of 60 from 47 delivery.

Williamson was not striking the ball that well and de Grandhomme's innings helped ease the pressure.

He should have moved ahead of fellow all-rounder Jimmy Neesham in the pecking order with that performance.

Neesham was more or less a passenger. Despite his five-wicket haul against Afghanistan, he was not sighted at the bowling crease and question marks remain about his ability to close an innings with the bat.

He got to 23 but steered a catch straight to Hashim Amla.

Surely he has to be the man to make way for Ish Sodhi when the Black Caps get on a spinning track.

Yesterday's win thrust the Black Caps back to the top of the standings and they are nicely positioned to make the semifinals.

New Zealand might not have the star players India possesses, England's batting depth or the self-assured confidence of Australia.

But the Black Caps are a team of fighters and Williamson showed he is not afraid to bite, kick and scratch his way to glory.

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