Long after the last spectator at the Garden of Eden has left for their quaint little homes. Long after the din of furious key strokes pounding at the keyboards has fallen silent and match reports are submitted. Long after the night sky had cleared enough of the electric fireworks. The pitch at the Garden of Eden will stare into the open sky, her companion when the game ceases to exist and open her heart out about what transpired earlier in the day. A vanquished Dale Steyn had come down to rest his breaking body and broken heart to rest, his hands on his head, staring into the blank of her sky.
Grant Elliot, the conqueror on the day had walked up to Dale Steyn to offer his hand, to get him back up on his feet. For the game was over, but the life still had to go on. Moments before, the short and wide ball from Dale Steyn had met the middle of Grant’s bat and started its journey into the oblivion, somewhere in the vicinity of long on and mid-wicket, puncturing deep into the hearts of proteas and landing in the ecstatic screams of 40,000 home team fans. The game that had hinged on that particular moment, changing its mood and momentum for 86.4 overs before it, had made its decision. For the first time in their Cricketing sojourn, New Zealand had booked the date with the finals of the game’s biggest spectacle. For the umpteenth time, it was the case of so near yet so far for the proteas.
Great heroes are borne from the crucible of great battles. This was the day for the 36-year-old Grant Elliot to be the darling of the nation, a perhaps bigger hero than the one who had sailed them into the semis a few days back with a sensational double. Yet, this story isn’t just about who won. It perhaps is about them, but it is also equally, if not more about the side that ended up losing just because the fate would have it no other way. For the reasons best known to god, the rains had intervened to stall the South African juggernaut from posting what could have been a daunting total. With Duckworth Lewis compensating the proteas for the lost time, this was the kind of total that needed the Kiwis to be at their best if they were to stake a claim to be the finalists.
Much before Grant could stamp his authority on the game, Brendon McCullum had shown just why he is the supreme commander of everything he observes these days. His assault on Dale Steyn had literally changed the course of the game. But this wasn’t the day for South Africa to choke. They fought back, like a team possessed would. This for them was not the day to take a step back. This for them was not the day to cop the flak. The wind behind the kiwi sails provided by the McCullum onslaught was proving to be great boon for the kiwis, keeping them in the contest all the while.
Yet when it came to the moments when it mattered, the luck seemed to be with the kiwis, providing them umpteen escapes from the noose that proteas were tightening around them. The dew on the ground had made the field slippery, the ball wet, and the usually water tight South African fielding seemed to be crumbling under the pressure of expectations. Yet, every time a slip happened, AB DeVilliers kept his bunch of boys inspired to pull things back. This was the day when saffers had pulled all their tricks out of their hat, on any other day this was their game. Their opposition however would have none of it and remained relentless in the face of south african storm.
With the ball in his hand for the one last time in this game, it was a now or never moment for Dale Steyn. The assault from McCullum would be forgotten, the ‘c’ tag fallen forever if he were to deliver when it mattered. His fire was to meet with the studious non nonchalance of Vettori and the calm of Grant Elliot. The more the saffers tried to deny what was coming their way, more the destiny seemed to suggest otherwise. The high balls fell into vacant spots, the desperate fielders converged for catches that stole the breath of the spectators and endless run-out chances went a begging. The team that tried the hardest to win, ended up losing the game. The team that kept its nerves till the end made it to the finals.
Just a day before McCullum had said that this game isn’t a matter of life and death, but what’s the harm in treating it like one. His wasn’t the only team who played with that spirit. In a game where no team wanted to lose, Cricket emerged the unlikeliest of winners. The kiwis had won the match, but the hearts were won by the proteas. The Garden of Eden will now have a special place in the hearts of Cricket lovers, for it was on her pitch was produced The Battle Royale.