Elliott, Vettori guide New Zealand into final
JOHANNESBURG: Grant Elliott braved a thumb injury with an impressive half-century as New Zealand stormed into the Champions Trophy final with a five-wicket victory over Pakistan here on Saturday.
Elliott cracked an unbeaten 75 to help his injury-hit team achieve a 234-run target with 13 balls to spare. New Zealand will now clash with defending champions Australia in the final on Monday. "It all started with the way we bowled. The 234 was a target we fancied we could chase. We have not been a consistent side, but we have managed to do that here. Elliott was great," said New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori.
New Zealand, who have lost five of their six semi-finals against Pakistan in one-day internationals, improved that record with a superb all-round performance in the day-night match. Paceman Ian Butler grabbed a career-best 4-44 and left-arm spinner Vettori finished with 3-43 to restrict Pakistan before Elliott completed the victory with a brave 103-ball knock, including one six and five fours.
New Zealand, who had lost Jesse Ryder, Jacob Oram and Daryl Tuffey during the tournament to injuries, were sweating over Elliott's fitness on the eve of the match, even summoning Scott Styris as cover. Elliott received valuable support from Vettori (41), adding 104 for the fifth wicket to ensure his team's second appearance in the final of this tournament. New Zealand were the winners in 2000 in Nairobi. Vettori was named man of the match for his all-round performance.
Pakistan's best chance of keeping pressure on New Zealand came in the 40th over, but skipper Younus Khan dropped Elliott in the covers off paceman Mohammad Aamer. The batsman was then on 42. Debutant Aaron Redmond (31) and Ross Taylor (38) were the other notable contributors for New Zealand.
"I think we were 20-25 runs short. At one stage, we looked like making 250. The plan was that someone from the top four should stay," said Younus. "It was a good pitch to bat and if you score 250, it would have been good. If I had taken that catch, maybe things may have changed."
Pakistan earlier looked set to reach a challenging total following teenager Umar Akmal's solid 55. They were 174-5 in 40 overs before Vettori and Butler struck in quick succession. The 19-year-old Umar, brother of wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran, looked unhappy with Australian umpire Simon Taufel's decision when given out leg-before while attempting to sweep Vettori. It appeared from the television replays that he had inside-edged the delivery on to his pads. Akmal cracked seven fours in his 62-ball knock for his second half-century.
Butler then grabbed Shahid Afridi (four) caught behind to send Pakistan struggling at 183-7. Teenager Aamer (19 not out) and Saeed Ajmal (14 not out) added 35 runs off 34 deliveries for the last wicket. Aamer hit four boundaries, including three in paceman Shane Bond's over. Umar and Mohammad Yousuf steadied the innings with an 80-run stand for the fifth wicket after Pakistan had been reduced to 86-4. Yousuf made 45 before inside-edging a Kyle Mills delivery on to his stumps.
Pakistan started impressively after winning the toss on a good Wanderers pitch, with openers Kamran (24) and Imran Nazir (28) playing attacking strokes to put on 46 in 9.4 overs. They failed to capitalise on the start as they lost four wickets in the space of 40 runs, with Butler grabbing two wickets and Bond and Vettori each taking one.