Prelude to the Finale of ICC World Cup 2015.....The Semi-Finals - I

We have finally reached the semi-final stage of the 11th edition of ICC World Cup 2015. And the first semi-finals between South Africa and New Zealand takes place today in Auckland. The history between Black Caps and Proteas can be dated back to 1932 and their great ruby union rivalry.

Batsmen from both the teams have displayed some amazing propensity to show just how aggressive and attacking brand of cricket they can play. Both teams have thrown caution to the wind and have some real match winners like AB de Villiers, Corey Anderson, Brendan McCullum, Martin Guptill, Hashim Amla who can take away the game from the opposition. Corey Anderson was the fastest batsmen to score a century, but this mantle has been taken over by AB de Villiers.

As the pre-tournament favorites gear up to battle it out at Eden Gardens – a ground known for its quick outfield in world cricket, both the teams come with a lot of baggage and expectations. Ever since South Africa came into the cricketing scene in 1992 after the collapse of apartheid, they have failed to make it pass the semi-final stage on three occasions and are still awaiting their maiden World Cup final appearance. The Kiwis record is even worse; they have lost all their previous six World Cup semi-finals and will be looking at winning this one for sure. Basically both the teams will be looking to breaking the jinx this time in this high-pressure game.

The Proteans have had a roller coaster ride in this tournament. In their opening match, they defeated Zimbabwe by 62 runs. A total of 400 plus runs was scored twice – one against Ireland and one against West Indies. They had to endure morale sapping losses to defending champions India by 130 runs and Pakistan by 29 runs. In quarterfinals, they thumped Sri Lanka by 9 wickets – their impressive victory in the knockout stage ever, and ending decades of never winning the knockout match at the World Cup and shrugging off the tag of a ‘choker’. This semi-final clash will be South Africa’s greatest challenge as several factors come into play – smaller field and playing in a nation whose euphoria is aided by the team’s success. The Proteans will have to get into a momentum if they want to have a chance of progressing. The ball has been swinging more in New Zealand than Australia, so selectors will have to decide the third seamer based on the prevalence of conditions favourable to swing.

On the other hand, the Back Caps have been ruthless since day one. They have not lost a single match in Pool A. Well balanced and settled, the Kiwis have never doubted their strategy or execution even for a brief while. They managed to beat the West Indies by a comfortable margin of 143 runs in the quarterfinals. Despite all their strong points, chinks in their armor have been spotted too. Despite the wins against Scotland and Australia, the run chases have been modest but problematic too. The make-up of the fifth bowler is also undecided and has been a bone of contention until now.

This semi-final clash is a difficult cricketing duel to predict. Hoping that the best team wins and advances to the Finals of the ICC World Cup 2015 on 29th March at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds! Who do you think is going to win today’s match?

Anshuman Vardhan (have 91 posts in total)

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