AUCKLAND (New Zealand) – New Zealand and South Africa have played out a World Cup semi-final thriller at Eden Park, with the Black Caps claiming a place in the final with a dramatic penultimate-ball victory; Grant Elliot who was unbeaten on 84 hit the winning runs.

The Kiwis beat South Africa by four wickets in a thriller to reach their first-ever World Cup final.

With the Black Caps needing 12 off the last over, two singles, then a four off the third ball from Daniel Vettori saw them well placed. After running a bye, Grant Elliott smashed a six on the fifth ball to send his country to the Cup final for the first time.

Brendon McCullum (59 off 26), Elliott (84 not out off 73) and Corey Anderson (58 off 57) were the driving forces behind the chase that saw the tournament co-hosts home with four wickets to spare in a match between two heavyweights which lived up to the hype.

A lengthy rain delay during South Africa’s innings saw the application of Duckworth/Lewis calculations, whereby the Proteas’ score of 5 for 281 from 43 overs resulted in a required target of 298 for New Zealand in the same number of overs.

Black Caps talisman McCullum showed he was not daunted by the task by embarking on a typically aggressive batting display at the top of the innings.

When he fell to Morne Morkel (3 for 59), who was the best of the South African bowlers, and Martin Guptill (34 off 38) was run out by Hashim Amla, New Zealand was teetering on 3 for 149.

Elliott and Anderson came together for the fourth wicket, however, and put on a vital 103-run stand, before Elliott batted the team to victory with Dan Vettori (7 off 6).

Earlier, Faf du Plessis (82 off 107) and AB de Villiers (65 not out off 45) were the stars with the bat in the Proteas’ innings, with each providing a very different kind of knock which was equally crucial to the cause.

South African captain AB de Villiers. Photo: AFP

South African captain AB de Villiers. Photo: AFP

The World Cup’s leading wicket-taker, Trent Boult (2 for 53), got his side off to a blistering start by sending openers Hashim Amla (10) and Quinton de Kock (14) back to the sheds before eight overs had been bowled.

A controlled knock from du Plessis steadied the South African ship, however, as the batsmen began to feast on the space granted them by New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum’s attacking field settings.

Rilee Rossouw (39 off 53) provided adequate support before he was removed by a sensational diving catch from Martin Guptill at gully off the bowling of Corey Anderson (3 for 72).

Guptill’s brilliance brought Proteas’ master blaster de Villiers to the crease, and he immediately commenced one of his incomparable hitting displays.

The Black Caps missed a golden opportunity to stop the bleeding when Kane Williamson dropped a sharp chance at short cover off de Villiers, who was on 38 at the time.

If Williamson did not already have a famous Steve Waugh quote about dropping the World Cup running though his mind, he was immediately confronted with the consequences of his fumble as the South African skipper blasted the next three balls for 20 runs to pass 50.

Rain intervened where New Zealand’s bowlers could not to stop De Villiers’ charge, halting play with the score at 3 for 216, before David Miller joined the party in the closing overs by belting 49 off 18.

South Africa have entertained - but fallen short.

South Africa have entertained – but fallen short.

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum: “It’s the greatest time of our lives as players. It’s an incredible ride, the crowd has supported this team and the brand of cricket we have played. Hopefully they’re dreaming like we are. It would be nice to win it. Both teams in the other semi-final are quality teams and we know if we play the way we can we have a chance.”

“All credit to South Africa, the way they have played has been a great advert for cricket and their country. They gave us one hell of a run.

South Africa captain AB de Villiers: “It was an amazing game. I couldn’t ask for anything more. We’re hurting over this. We play for the people back home, hopefully the passion we showed made a difference and that people can still be proud of us, even though we have lost tonight.

“There have been some wonderful performances. We had a wonderful thing going. We are a unit, but the unit came unstuck today. There have been very good individual performances throughout the tournament. To the teams in the final, all the best for whoever wins.”

Man of the match

New Zealand batsman Grant Elliott who scored 84 not out and hit the winning six: “Hopefully, all our supporters got what they wanted. We’ve had two close, amazing games here now.

“We will probably have a few drinks in the changing rooms. I don’t like to get too high or low – I prefer to reflect later – but it is a great moment to share with family and the team. The win is for the supporters.

“I think we left it a little too late. I can say that now even though we won it. South Africa have a world-class unit and they bowled well. We got a bit of luck but it was our day.

“The feeling in the team is that it is destined. That is how I felt. It feels like it was meant to be. The best team on the day will win the final. We have nothing to lose. Someone has to step up.”

Grant Elliott dedicated his team’s sensational semi-final win over South Africa to the 45,000 cheering fans at the buzzing Eden Park in Auckland on Tuesday.

New Zealand now await the winners of the India-Australia semi-final in Sydney on Thursday.