Johannesburg: New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming hit a masterly century as his team pulled off an improbable nine-wicket win against South Africa in its World Cup match at Wanderers on Sunday. South Africa seemed to have made a match-winning total after a spectacular innings of 143 by opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs took it to a massive total of 306 for six.
But Fleming made a magnificent, career-best 134 not out off 132 balls as New Zealand reached a rain-reduced target of 226 in 39 overs with 13 balls to spare. The Kiwi triumph was set up by Fleming in partnerships - of 89 with Craig McMillan (25) and an unbeaten 140 with Nathan Astle (54 not out), which kept the score moving so quickly throughout the innings that two rain breaks did not hinder them.
After the second break, New Zealand needed only 44 off 51 balls to complete its triumph. The defeat was a bitter blow for hosts and second favourite South Africa, who is in danger of failing to qualify for the Super Six stage after previously losing to the West Indies. South Africa will have to dispose of minnows Bangladesh and Canada, then beat Sri Lanka in Durban on March 3 to have a chance of getting through to the next stage.
South Africa's bowling, expected to be one of its strong points, was again disappointing with veteran fast bowler Allan Donald conceding 52 runs in 5.5 overs, although he took the only wicket when he had McMillan caught behind. South Africa paid dearly for a missed chance when Fleming on 53 edged Jacques Kallis and wicket-keeper Mark Boucher put down a routine chest-height offering to his right.
Gibbs hit 143 off 141 balls as South Africa piled on the runs after winning the toss on a good batting pitch. Gibbs had some luck early on, particularly against the lively swing bowling of Andre Adams, who shared the new ball with Shane Bond, before unleashing his full array of shots to roars of approval from a packed crowd in the 30,000-seater stadium.
He hit 19 fours and three sixes before being caught on the mid-wicket boundary off medium-pacer Jacob Oram. There were good partnerships throughout the South African innings, which was launched by a stand of 60 in the first ten overs between Gibbs and left-hander Graeme Smith, playing his first match of the tournament after replacing the injured Jonty Rhodes.
Smith made 23 after being caught at second slip off a no-ball from Bond in the first over before he had scored. It was tough going for the New Zealand bowlers, with only Scott Styris, who took one for 44 in ten overs, managing to keep the batsmen in check. Jacob Oram took two for 52 but both of his wickets were to catches in the deep.
| Copyright AFP 2001 |