Cricket World Cup, 1st Semi Final: New Zealand vs South Africa at Auckland, starting at 2:00pm local time, Tuesday, March 24.
This semi-final is a tantalising match-up between two sides who could not have been any more comprehensive in dispatching their foes in the quarter finals. New Zealand stretched their unbeaten streak at this World Cup to seven matches in obliterating the West Indies. A double ton from opener Martin Guptill helped propel the Kiwis to a mammoth total of 6-393 batting first. Their potent bowling attack then skittled the West Indies in just 30.3 overs to secure an emphatic 143-run victory. South Africa, meanwhile, toyed with the experienced Sri Lankan side in their quarter final. The Proteas’ pace unit typically dominates their bowling strategies but on this occasion it was their spinners who ran amok as Sri Lanka could scrape together only 133 batting first. South Africa then cantered to victory, making 1-134 in just 18 overs. En route to this triumph, two major concerns were allayed for the Proteas. First, JP Duminy took a hat trick and suggested that he may be ready to fill the troublesome fifth bowling spot. Then opening batsman Quinton de Kock finally ended his run of low scores with a fluent 78no from just 57 balls. These performances made South Africa look a better rounded side. But they still do not have the same balance as New Zealand due to their lack of a decent all-rounder. Where New Zealand have a highly-competent batsman at eight in their order, in Daniel Vettori, South Africa have an exceptionally long tail. Dale Steyn is hopeless with the blade yet is being asked to bat at eight, which is about three spots too high for him. South Africa’s lack of batting depth will haunt them against the incisive New Zealand attack. The Kiwis will win this match to make their first ever World Cup final.
Trent Boult vs Hashim Amla: For South Africa, all the focus has been on their batting maestro AB de Villiers. While de Villiers can turn a match in the space of 30 minutes with his destructive and inventive strokeplay, it is Amla who holds the key to the Proteas batting in this semi-final. South Africa have no batting ability whatsoever beyond their top seven so keeping wickets in hand will be unbelievably important if they are to set or successfully chase a big total. Amla is the bedrock of the South African batting lineup, a composed opener who the more cavalier strokemakers can bat around. New Zealand pace bowler Trent Boult has been in outstanding form this tournament, swinging the new ball prodigiously and consistently making early breakthroughs. If he gets Amla early on, the pressure on the rest of the South Africa batsmen will increase massively.