Captain Brendon McCullum said his team is enjoying “the greatest time of our lives” after New Zealand qualified for their first World Cup final with a four-wicket victory over South Africa on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Grant Elliott (84no) was named man-of-the-match after striking the winning blow off paceman Dale Steyn, the ball sailing over long-on to take the Black Caps to their target of 299 in a match reduced by rain to 43 overs a side.
New Zealand will take on the winners of Thursday’s semi-final in Sydney between fellow co-hosts Australia and India in Melbourne on Sunday.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said McCullum, who blasted 59 off 26 balls to give his side the best of starts in reply to South Africa’s 281-5 off 43 overs.
“It was a great advertisement for cricket, everybody will remember this for the rest of their lives.
“It’s the greatest time of our lives. We have enjoyed the experience, the crowds that have turned up, the brand of cricket we have tried to play. We hope the crowds are all dreaming the way we are.
“We don’t mind who we face in the final, they are both quality sides but we know if we play the way we want to we are a good chance. I’m really proud to represent New Zealand.”
Johannesburg-born Elliott, who shared a fifth-wicket stand of 103 with Corey Anderson (58), said the very vocal support of the home fans had made a real difference at Eden Park.
“It’s not for myself, not for the team but it’s for everyone here. The support has been amazing,” he said.
“We just wanted to take it as deep as we could. Corey (Anderson) batted fantastically well. We timed the pace of the innings to perfection.
South Africa were also aiming to qualify for their first World Cup final and captain AB de Villiers said the defeat is tough to take even if it was a thrilling game.
“It was an amazing game of cricket,” de Villiers said. “It was the most electric crowd I’ve ever heard in my life.
“I guess the better team came out on top. We gave it our best. We left everything out here on the field. I couldn’t ask anything more from my boys.
“We don’t go back with any regrets. I guess we had our chances, it’s hurting quite a bit. So, it will take us quite a while to get over this.”
“When you have got 40,000 fans screaming at you every ball, it’s been an absolute pleasure playing at Eden Park, playing in front of the home crowd. Now it’s the first final we have been in as the New Zealand team.”