New Zealand vs South Africa 2015 World Cup: Baz & AB play semi-final for the ages

The New Zealand vs South Africa 2015 World Cup semi-final match was South Africa's fourth semi-final elimination in World Cups.

Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan Dutta

Last Updated: 2023-09-27

Dillip Mohanty

The New Zealand vs South Africa 2015 World Cup semi-final was an absolute delight for neutral cricket fans. With both sides brimming with superstars and two of the most iconic captains - Brendon McCullum and AB de Villiers - pitted against each other, one couldn’t have asked for anything better at the biggest cricket stage.

Like the Martin Crowe-led New Zealand team of the 1992 World Cup, the 2015 Kiwi side was a pet project for McCullum. He had a team moulded to his mindset, where players had an unrelenting aggressive approach to every game. McCullum’s counterpart AB de Villiers, on the other hand, had some of the biggest names in world cricket on his side most of whom could be individual match-winners.

The Black Caps, however, were the more confident side approaching the South Africa vs New Zealand 2015 World Cup semi final clash with with a seven-match winning streak. The Proteas, on the other hand, had lost to India and Pakistan in their group-stage games to qualify from the second position.

However, such stats hardly mattered ahead of this gigantic clash at Eden Park as neither of the teams had won the World Cup title before. Before the New Zealand vs South Africa World Cup 2015 semi-final, the Kiwis had made it to the semis six times - in ‘75, 79, ‘92, ‘99, ‘07 and ‘11 - losing on all occasions. South Africa’s best World Cup finishes had been the semis as well, which they had reached during the ‘92, ‘99 and ‘07 WC editions.



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World Cup semi final 2015 | South Africa vs New Zealand: Proteas set up a steep target

McCullum and AB de Villiers headed for the toss safe in the knowledge that one of them would be the first-ever captain to lead their respective nation to a maiden ODI World Cup final.

With rain delaying the toss, both the captains wanted to bat first but it was De Villiers who had luck on his side. However, the Proteas couldn’t have a great start with Hashim Amla sent back in the fourth over by an inswing delivery by Trent Boult. He would come three overs later to remove a nervy Quinton de Kock and further reduce South Africa to 31/2 by the eighth over.

South Africa had to start a rebuild banking on the experienced Faf du Plessis who was aided by Rilee Rossouw in the middle. The duo forged an 83-run partnership to steady the ship for the Proteas before Corey Anderson removed the latter. Captain de Villiers would join the party next to build another 103-run stand with du Plessis.

By the time du Plessis was dismissed, South Africa had their journey recalibrated and was looking for the explosive David Miller to get into action. The southpaw did exactly that by scoring a quickfire 49 runs off 18 balls before edging a catch off Anderson’s delivery, thus failing to score the fastest fifty in the ODI World Cup (in 18 balls).

With 281 runs on the scoreboard in 43 overs and a settled de Villiers at the crease, a target of 300 runs was definitely on the cards before rain interrupted again. And this time it didn’t stop within the stipulated time for South Africa to resume their batting. Consequently, the revised target for New Zealand was a steep 298 runs in 43 overs.

New Zealand vs South Africa World Cup 2015: Kiwis take it to the wire

One of the best characteristics of McCullum’s New Zealand team at the 2015 World Cup was their uncompromising approach. With Martin Guptil anchoring from one end, a relentless McCullum went after every bowler South Africa put before him whether it was Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander or Morne Morkel.

He took 14 runs off Philander in the second over and 12 off Morkel in the fourth before unleashing his thunder upon South Africa’s premier weapon Steyn in the fifth over. The world watched in awe as McCullum hit three boundaries and two maximums to take 25 runs off Steyn. De Villiers brought in Imran Tahir to check New Zealand’s onslaught and the spinner produced a maiden over to put pressure back on the hosts.

The barren over got the better of McCullum as he was dismissed on the first ball of the seventh over but the damage was already done. New Zealand was 71/1 after six overs with the game perfectly perfect set for the remaining Kiwi batters to come and finish. However, fan favourite Kane Williamson could only add six more runs before Morkel dismissed him.

The Kiwis needed a partnership at this crucial juncture between Ross Taylor and Guptil and their timely 41-run stand provided the same. However, both the batsmen would depart soon leaving the Kiwis to struggle at 149/4 in the 22nd over. The match was in balance with New Zealand desperately asking for steady hands as Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson started their climb.

The duo would make a sixth-wicket partnership of 103 runs but just when the match was inclining towards New Zealand, Anderson’s massive top edge brought South Africa back into the game. The Proteas now had to defend 47 runs in 30 balls and while it looked improbable, New Zealand’s incoming batsmen weren’t specialist batsmen either.

Steyn would remove Luke Ronchi soon with veteran Daniel Vettori joining a set Elliott at the crease to see off the game. The run rate had understandably reduced with Elliott pulling all stops to take the game to the wire.

Dale Steyn South Africa v New Zealand Semi Final 2015 World Cup.jpeg

South Africa vs New Zealand 2015 World Cup: Last Over

The final over of this epic clash couldn’t have begun on a more dramatic note with Elliott’s top edge between deep backward and fine leg miraculously missed by onrushing JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien, who collided with each other in on the last ball of the 41st over.

Vettori would take strike against Steyn with 12 runs needed off 6 balls. But, South Africa’s best bowler had an underwhelming outing so far, claiming just one wicket in eight overs.

42.1 (1 bye run) Dale Steyn starts with a slower ball as Vettori moves back, swings and misses. However, he manages a bye-run. 11 runs to win.

42.2 (1 run) Dale Steyn bowls a full toss and Elliott plays it towards cover for a single. 10 runs to win.

42.3 (4 runs) Steyn resumes play after needing physio to treat his calf muscles. He is clearly not fit but decides to finish it anyway. Steyn goes for a yorker and Vettori opens his bat to guide the ball for four runs to the left of the third man. 6 runs to win.

42.4 (1 bye run) Steyn comes up with a bouncer and Vettori completely misses it. However, he completes a single with Elliott rushing towards him and de Kock missing his throw at the stumps. 5 runs to win.

42.5 (6 runs) Steyn bowls a length ball as Elliott goes back deep into his crease to hit a six over wide long-on.

The entire 45000 fans at Eden Park roared as the South Africa-born Elliott took his adopted country New Zealand through to the World Cup final for the first time in their cricketing history.

The sensational clip carrying the glimpse of the South African players sitting on their knees in disappointment, looks heartbreaking even today. Elliott stretching his consoling hand to Steyn also remains an iconic picture.

This was the fourth time in ODI World Cup history that the Proteas had lost in the semi-finals. However, the 2015 World Cup was also the first edition where South Africa had won a knockout match. 

South Africa vs New Zealand 2015 World Cup semi-final brief scorecard

South Africa - 281/5 in 43 overs | Faf du Plessis (82), AB de Villiers (65), David Miller (49) | Corey Anderson (3/72), Trent Boult (2/53)

New Zealand - 299/6 in 42.5 overs | Grant Elliott (84), Brendon McCullum (59), Corey Anderson (57) | Morne Morkel (3/59), Dale Steyn (1/76)

Subhayan Dutta
Subhayan DuttaSports Writer

An M.A. in English Literature, Subhayan is an experienced journalist and sports writer. Having worked as a journalist at Hindustan Times, Subhayan covered diverse beats including sports, education, and health, showcasing his versatility and in-depth understanding of various subjects.