Johannesburg: New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming reflected on Sunday on what he described as the best innings of his life, while South Africa's Shaun Pollock faced up to the possibility that his team might be eliminated from the World Cup in the first round. It's out of our control," admitted Pollock after New Zealand pulled off a nine- wicket win at the Wanderers. "We've got it all to do and we've got to hope results go our way."
South Africa has to win its remaining three matches, against minnows Bangladesh and Canada and then Sri Lanka in what could be a crucial match in Durban on March 3. But if Sri Lanka beats the West Indies in Cape Town on February 28, the hosts could be eliminated anyway. "It's not an ideal situation," said Pollock, who admitted his side was outplayed by New Zealand despite having scored a seemingly insurmountable 306 for six. New Zealand reached a rain-reduced target of 226 in 39 overs with nine wickets and 13 balls to spare, with Fleming making a career-best unbeaten 134 off 132 balls.
Pollock criticised his bowlers for "bowling on both sides of the wicket" and acknowledged that the pressure of being the host nation might have got to some of his players, "although I'd be disappointed if that was the case", confessed the skipper. Fleming said his innings was the best of his career. "A lot was on the line. It was a must-win situation and as captain I felt I had to make my mark as a player. It's the World Cup and I haven't had great performances in the World Cup in the past.
This was my day." Acknowledged as one of the most cerebral international captains, Fleming admitted to concern that he had not always performed well enough as a player. "It's an honour to lead your country but to win a game as a player is a bigger thrill. It gets respect and you feel better about yourself as well. You make better decisions when you're feeling confident."
He said a let-off when South African wicket-keeper Mark Boucher dropped him on 53 off Jacques Kallis was "a big moment in the game." "It came at a time when things were getting a bit loose. That often happens when you're chasing a big score and then two or three wickets can fall and the game is over. It was a good reminder to me that I had to bat through."