New Zealand vs South Africa, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: In Top Gun encore, 'Maverick' de Grandhomme, 'Iceman' Williamson trump Proteas

  • Michael Wagener
  • June 20th, 2019
  • 15:00:54 IST

Every couple of years or so a film comes out that captures the attention of a generation. In 1986 that film was Top Gun. It made hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office and established Tom Cruise as a major Hollywood star.

One of the storylines was the rivalry between the blonde-haired 'Iceman', played by Val Kilmer and the dark-haired 'Maverick', played by Cruise.

Kane Williamson and Colin de Grandhomme guided Kiwis to win. Reuters

Kane Williamson and Colin de Grandhomme guided Kiwis to win. Reuters

Iceman is quiet, serious and sensible. He plays the percentages and doesn't make mistakes. In contrast, Maverick is brave, impulsive and a little reckless. He often goes for the high risk/high reward option.

Against South Africa, New Zealand relied on their very own Iceman and Maverick. The blonde, sensible and clinical Kane Williamson and the dark-haired, reckless Colin de Grandhomme (although he looks much more like Roger Federer than Tom Cruise).

When Jimmy Neesham got out, New Zealand were potentially in a bit of trouble. The game was still quite evenly poised, but New Zealand's middle order has an air of unreliability.

On a slow, difficult pitch with Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Imran Tahir, and Chris Morris all getting the ball to play tricks, New Zealand were in a position where they needed to score roughly a run a ball for 17 and-a-half overs, with only one specialist batsman left.

Colin de Grandhomme had just slipped behind Andre Russell to have the second-highest career strike rate in T20 matches in history (minimum 50 innings). He knows how to score quickly. Some of his big-hitting is legendary — he once hit a ball into the North Stand at Eden Park. That wouldn't be especially impressive, except for the fact that he was not playing on Eden Park at the time, but on the ground next door.

However, like most big hitters, he is also inconsistent. For every success, there are two failures. There's always the knowledge that at any time he could hit the ball straight to a man standing on the boundary. But he could also just as likely hit it over that player’s head to a man standing 20 rows back in the grandstand.

Maverick wasn't always successful either. His recklessness caused issues. In one training flight, he left his wingman to try a daring manoeuvre and win the dogfight, but it backfired badly. He lost.

Iceman, however, got his nickname from his clinical approach. "That's the way he flies. Ice-cold. No mistakes." He did not often take spectacular options, but he also rarely took the bad ones.

Kane Williamson was struggling against South Africa. They had his favourite shots covered, and he was looking much less assured than he normally does. But he was still there.

Martin Guptill had stepped on his stumps. Ross Taylor had been strangled down the leg-side. Tom Latham had nicked off early. Neesham had been looking reasonable before he was beaten by some extra bounce from Morris. But Williamson was still there.

He advanced his score to 63 before Neesham perished. Sixty-three cautiously gathered runs off 90 balls. There had been some boundaries: A couple of cover drives, a pull shot, a beautiful on-drive and a couple through the third-man, but it certainly wasn't a vintage innings up until that point. It was efficient, but generally unspectacular. The majority of his runs had come from shots likes the dab behind point or the push to midwicket, for one.

De Grandhomme's first ball found the middle of the bat and raced through the covers. He ran through for two. The next ball he shuffled across his stumps and hit over mid-wicket; the ball bounced just before crossing the boundary. Two balls later, he had two more to fine leg. Eight runs off four balls, and New Zealand's Maverick was underway.

A couple of overs later, when de Grandhomme had 10 off 7, he tried to hit Imran Tahir out of the park. Fortunately for him he mishit it badly enough that it didn't carry to the man at backward square, and he came through for another brace. He was still prepared to take some risky options.

The next over the dangerous Phehlukwayo came back into the attack. Could de Grandhomme diffuse his tricky variations in pace and cut? Yes he could. The square leg boundary isn't massive at Edgbaston, but it would have been interesting to see how far that ball would have gone if the stand had not been in the road.

Two overs later he gave the crowd in that stand little time to move out of the way as he dispatched another short ball, this time from Rabada, into their midst.

At the other end, Williamson was playing the percentages. When the fifty partnership came up, Williamson had 13 runs from 25 balls, while de Grandhomme had taken 37 runs from 24 balls. It was like they were batting on two different pitches.

De Grandhomme's fifty came up off 39 balls, and New Zealand now needed just 26 off 24.

Maverick's recklessness comes to a head in an incident where he takes a risk and ends up in Iceman's jet-wash, causing his plane to spin out and crash. Leaving Iceman to fight on his own.

Two overs after De Grandhomme’s fifty, with New Zealand needing 14 runs off the final two overs, De Grandhomme sees a length ball outside off and tries to hit it out of the park. It only gets as far as Faf du Plessis at deep extra cover.

Maverick has taken the risky option, leaving it up to Iceman to finish things off.

Williamson does just that, bringing up his century in the process.

When being presented the Man of the Match award, Williamson singled out de Grandhomme for praise. But he could have just as easily repeated Iceman's last line in the film (to Maverick), "You can be my wingman any time."

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Updated Date: June 20, 2019 15:00:54 IST

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