New Zealand have lost all six of their previous World Cup semi-finals, with South Africa falling at the same hurdle on three occasions. New Zealand beat the West Indies by 143 runs in the quarter-final after scoring 393 for six on the back of Martin Guptill’s World Cup record 237 not out. South Africa emerged from their quarter-final against Sri Lanka with an overwhelming nine-wicket victory.
Here are the top five battles to expect from the highly-anticipated clash between them (Player to watch):
Brendon McCullum vs AB de Villiers
In a batsman-dominated era, Brendon McCullum and AB de Villiers stand tall with their uncanny ability to devastate some of the best bowling attacks in the World.
McCullum’s gutsy leadership has reflected well in New Zealand’s fiery brand of cricket over the last 18 months. The perennial World Cup semi-finalists have punched above their weight and look worthy contenders for the title. Can McCullum’s leadership help the Kiwis fly past the Proteas?
In the opposition camp, De Villiers is fighting hard to exorcise the ghosts of previous World Cup heart-breaks for South Africa. De Villiers has gone a long way in shrugging off the ‘chokers’ tag by guiding his team to their first-ever World Cup knockout win (against Sri Lanka in quarter-final). The big question, however, is whether he can outwit McCullum and take his side one step closer to World Cup glory.
Martin Guptill vs Hashim Amla
Fresh from a scintillating knock of 237 – the highest-ever in World Cups – Martin Guptill holds the aces against the South African pace attack. How Guptill supports his skipper McCullum early on and then shifts gears according to situation will have a big impact on New Zealand’s chances in Auckland. With 498 runs to his name, Guptill is just two runs short of becoming only the third batsman (after Sachin Tendulkar and Kumar Sangakkara) to score 500-plus runs in a single World Cup.
South Africa will turn to their experienced campaigner Hashim Amla to provide a solid start against the highly-successful and effective Kiwi pace duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. By his lofty standards, Amla has not been in great touch in the World Cup. A solid performance on Tuesday, however, will be good enough to vindicate his slow start to the tournament.
Daniel Vettori vs Imran Tahir
Playing in his fifth World Cup, the 36-year-old Daniel Vettori has been a vital cog in New Zealand’s exciting setup in World Cup 2015. The left-arm veteran has been the most successful spinner in the tournament with 15 wickets.
Imran Tahir’s splendid spell of bowling (4/26) helped South Africa oust Sri Lanka and move into the semis. Tahir has a five-wicket haul in the tournament and has bowled at an economy rate of just 4.20. Against a batting line-up not known for their ability to play spin bowlingvery well, Tahir could turn out to be De Villiers’ trump card in the semis.
Trent Boult vs Morne Morkel
With 19 wickets at an economy rate of 4.21, Trent Boult has been the best bowler of World Cup 2015. On a bouncy Auckland wicket, Boult’s early exploits will be key to New Zealand’s chances against South Africa’s potent batting line-up.
South Africa will rely on their tall pacer Morne Morkel to use extra bounce to great effect against a wobbly New Zealand middle-order. Morkel has been the pick of the South African pacers, bagging 14 wickets in seven games. If Morkel provides a couple of early strikes, the brittle Kiwi batting line-up could be exposed.
Tim Southee vs Dale Steyn
One of New Zealand’s biggest strength at World Cup 2015 has been their pace attack. Bowling in tandem with Boult, Tim Southee too has been in thick of action, picking up 15 wickets so far.
Dale Steyn has not set the World Cup 2015 stage alight but a lot of South Africa’s hopes will be pinned on one of the most feared pacers of the modern-day game. Can he tame the ever-aggressive McCullum and give his side an early advantage on Tuesday? An exciting contests is on the cards.
Neither country has ever won a World Cup semi-final. One of them will go to the summit for the first time. Who will blink first?
The weather forecast for Auckland on Tuesday is not all that good, with showers predicted on a day that could have temperatures going as high as 23 degrees. Fans of both teams will hope that good weather persists, and that the bat and ball take care of the thunder and lightning.
Probable Playing XI
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum (capt), 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
South Africa: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Rilee Rossouw, 5 AB de Villiers (capt), 6 David Miller, 7 JP Duminy, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Kyle Abbott/Vernon Philander, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
Result of match: New Zealand Win By four wickets and move into their median world cup final.
Read more about the historic win of New Zealand over South Africa in semi-final