The biggest impression Grant Elliott had made on world cricket came when he was barged by Ryan Sidebottom during a one-day international at the Oval seven years ago and was unwittingly caught in the middle of a major row between England and New Zealand.
Now he will be remembered for all the right reasons.
Elliott, a little known all-rounder born in South Africa but a naturalised Kiwi, played one of the great one-day innings on Tuesday for his adopted country against the nation of his birth to take New Zealand to their first World Cup final.
It led to jubilant scenes at Auckland’s Eden Park, a venue more readily associated with New Zealand’s rugby triumphs than cricketing ones, and breathed life into a tournament in which exciting finishes have been all too rare.
Grant Elliott celebrates hitting a six against South Africa to put New Zealand through to the World Cup final
Daniel Vettori embraces Elliott while bowler Dale Steyn lays on the ground after the crucial blow
Elliott, 36, powered his way to what would be a match-winning unbeaten 84 in the Black Caps chase
What a day for New Zealand and what a day for 36-year-old Elliott, who had not played international cricket for 14 months when he became one of coach Mike Hesson’s inspired choices for this World Cup.
Elliott beams as he meets the press after the match
Elliott will surely never play another innings like his unbeaten 84 which earned New Zealand the most nerve-racking of victories with just a ball to spare against a South African team who fell short when it most mattered yet again.
And Elliott will surely never play another shot like the six that soared over the short long-on boundary with five needed off two balls from the world’s greatest fast bowler in Dale Steyn.
A man who has had a largely anonymous career that has taken in Transvaal, Wellington and Surrey was humble enough to console the stricken Steyn in scenes reminiscent of Andrew Flintoff’s Ashes embrace of Brett Lee in 2005.
Then Elliott talked of how much this means for a country who will now take on either Australia or India in the final on Sunday after falling short in no fewer than six previous World Cup semi-finals.
‘I was looking to hit that ball for six or four,’ said Elliott. ‘I was just going to line it up and it was going over the boundary. It means a lot to the players but you only had to look to the stands to see how much it meant to a lot of people.’
This was glorious vindication for the attacking, modern brand of one-day cricket that New Zealand have been producing under their impressive captain Brendon McCullum with players who have not always been regarded as dynamic.
Elliott goes for broke on the penultimate ball of the match and his sweet strike soars into the stands
Steyn, for many the world’s best fast bowler, stands with his hands on his knees as Elliott celebrates
Elliott shakes hands and consoles Steyn as the conclusion of the match at Auckland’s Eden Park
The batsman sparked memories of Andrew Flintoff’s sportsmanship with Brett Lee in the 2007 Ashes
Elliott has never been seen as the epitome of modern 50-over power and nor has Martin Guptill, who came of age as a limited-overs batsman with his double century in the quarter-final against West Indies.
If they can do it, then why not England, if they throw off the shackles and start again in one-day cricket after their embarrassing exit in the group stages?
New Zealand were in all sorts of turmoil two years ago when they messily sacked Ross Taylor as captain but what has happened since has been little short of phenomenal, and they will provide the stiffest of opposition to England in both Test and one-day cricket in May and June.
Before his semi-final heroics, Elliott was best known for his collision with Ryan Sidebottom in 2008
Then captain Paul Collingwood apologised for upholding the appeal that saw Elliott run out after the clash
This was heartbreaking for South Africa, who did little to shake off their reputation as perennial chokers on the big occasion.
Yet to use the ‘c-word’ they hate so much would be harsh on South Africa. They fumbled two crucial run-out chances and then saw JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien collide in the deep (above) when Eliott offered a skyer with 14 needed for victory, but were simply beaten by the better team.
‘I really did feel the pressure, it was stressful towards the end,’ said Elliott, who saw New Zealand home in company with the veteran Dan Vettori.
That was of little consolation to South Africa captain AB de Villiers, who struggled to contain his emotions after coming off second best in one of the great World Cup games.
‘We wanted to take the trophy home and lift our nation’s hearts but we weren’t able to do that,’ said De Villiers. ‘But life moves on and the sun will come up tomorrow.’