The first semifinal of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 at Auckland will feature two of the best teams of the tournament locking horns for their maiden trip to the finals tomorrow.
New Zealand will face South Africa in their backyard. Let’s see the road to the semifinals for both these teams before the much anticipated clash on Tuesday.
Along with Australia, South Africa were billed as the pre-tournament favourites to lift the coveted trophy of one-day-international cricket’s most celebrated contest.
Their journey to the semi cannot be coined as smooth sailing, as their weaknesses were exposed at least twice in this competition.
The Proteas began with the Miller-Duminy show at Hamilton against Zimbabwe – their unbeaten 256 runs partnership knocked the wind out of Zimbabwean sails with lusty blows during the death overs of the match. The 340-run target was a bridge too far for the Zimbabwe batters with the South African bowling unit getting into their stride.
In their next match at MCG, South Africa had a bad day at office against India as Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane made merry of undisciplined bowling as they piled up a 300-plus total. The South African batters never really turned up as they found the Indian bowling too hot to handle, losing the match by a whopping 130 runs in the Pool B encounter.
South African batting resurgence began at Sydney against West Indies, as AB de Villiers and co took the Calypso bowlers to the cleaners, and amassed 408 runs with some unbelievable batting. The Irish bowlers were next to face the music as the Proteas batters hammered 411 runs, and needless to say, they won both the matches handsomely.
After scuttling Pakistan for 222 runs in a rain-interrupted match, South African batsmen faced a spirited Mohammad Irfan and the mercurial Wahab Riaz when they came out chase the smallish total at Auckland. The valiant effort from de Villiers could not take his side home as Pakistan kept alive their hopes of a quarterfinal berth with a timely 29-run victory under the Duckworth-Lewis method.
South Africa’s CWC campaign got back on track with a huge victory against United Arab Emirates and they carried the form in the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka where they won in the most convincing of manners one can imagine. With Imran Tahir’s four-for and JP Duminy’s hat-trick, they bowled out the Lankans for 133 runs and chased down the total in 18 overs losing only one wicket in the process.
All in all, the Proteas are primed to perform at the semifinal and anything less than a victory against the Kiwis will be a shock for the South African fans hoping to see their team in the finals for the very first time.
The New Zealand team was termed as the dark horse before the tournament began, but evolved into a real title contender with outstanding performance against higher-ranked teams in this world cup.
Needless to say, they are the only unbeaten team along with India in this competition.
Their world cup campaign began with a bang at Christchurch where they thumped the mighty Sri Lankans by 98 runs. Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson bagged the runs while Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Adam Milne and Daniel Vettori took wickets at regular intervals to restrict their opponents in the opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup.
After bowling out Scotland for a paltry 142 runs, the New Zealand batters laboured to a three-wicket win at Dunedin, showing signs of nerves while chasing down a low total in front of their supporters.
In their next outing, New Zealand blew away England with Tim Southee wrecking the English batting line-up with some excellent swing bowling at Wellington. Then the batsmen made a mockery of the 124-run target with McCullum at his fearsome best.
The nerves Kiwi batters showed during the match against Scotland came back to haunt them as Australia nearly pulled out a miraculous victory while defending 151 runs at Auckland. Although the Kiwi bowlers, especially Trent Boult was on song, the batsmen defied Mitchell Starc to come out with a one-wicket victory against their perennial rivals.
After defeating Afghanistan with relative ease, New Zealand faced a tough contest against Bangladesh at Hamilton.
Having conceded the highest total of 288 runs in this world cup, Kiwi batters found the Bangladesh bowlers quite difficult to handle during the pulsating chase. Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor laid the foundations for the victory while Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot provided the finishing touches.
The quarterfinal against West Indies at Wellington saw Martin Guptill smash records with the highest individual score in world cup history and the highest score by a Kiwi batsman in ODI cricket as well.
Guptill was unbeaten on 237 runs, becoming the fifth batsmen to enter the double-century club in 50-over cricket and enabling his team to score nearly four hundred runs against the hapless WI bowlers.
The Kiwi bowlers took wickets at regular intervals, and gave their team a massive 143-run victory to guarantee a place in the semifinals.
On the whole, New Zealand will face their toughest test at Auckland against the Proteas, going in as the underdogs, but with the confidence to upset any team in this world cup.
Let’s hope for a good game on March 24!