Gracious in victory: Grant Elliott helps Dale Steyn up after New Zealand won a thrilling game to qualify for their first World Cup win

Gracious in victory: Grant Elliott helps Dale Steyn up after New Zealand's first ever win in a World Cup semi-final

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Greatest World Cup matches: No. 3

Heart-stopping, heartbreaking

Few one-dayers have matched this semi-final for emotional intensity

Varun Shetty  |  

New Zealand v South Africa, semi-final, Auckland, 2015

New Zealand won by four wickets (D-L Method)

What happened
With a strong bowling attack and a predisposition to wobble in crucial World Cup elimination games, South Africa elected to bat in the first semi-final of the 2015 World Cup. An 82 from Faf du Plessis set them up nicely before rain in the 38th over made it a 43-overs-per-side game. AB Villiers made a 45-ball 65 and David Miller 49 off 18; an additional 16 runs came via Duckworth-Lewis. New Zealand needed stiff 298.

South Africa's late dash was negated in the Powerplay by Brendon McCullum's 26-ball 59, and on that start, New Zealand built a decent response. They lost their fourth wicket on 149 but were still up with the scoring rate before a tight Imran Tahir spell set them back. But Corey Anderson's fifty complemented Grant Elliott, whose unbeaten 84 culminated with a six over midwicket against Dale Steyn when five were needed off two.

Why it was great
New Zealand were as much a team as a personal project of McCullum's at the 2015 World Cup. Blazing Powerplays? Check. Catching fielders in the middle overs? Check. During a collapse, or in the middle of a pasting on the field, McCullum's New Zealand had vowed unrelenting aggression, and in their middle order that evening, that's what they found. It was their first ever entry into a World Cup final, and a win that briefly put the national cricket team on par with the All Blacks.

Looking to make up for years of knockout heartbreaks, and equipped with one of the strongest line-ups in their history, South Africa were particularly intense on the evening. De Villiers, prostrate on the turf, became another South Africa captain whose World Cup campaign ended in tears. And in the rush of qualification, Elliott, born and raised in South Africa, was around to offer Steyn a hand to raise himself off the turf, capping a fixture that will forever be a neutral's delight.

They said
"I was looking to hit that ball for six or four. I was just going to line it up and wherever it was, it was going over the boundary, hopefully. I didn't want to be there 70-odd and not winning this game."
- Grant Elliott describes his thoughts with five needed off two against Dale Steyn

The Greatest World Cup Matches: No. 10 | No. 9 | No. 8 | No. 7 | No. 6 | No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 2 | No. 1

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo