Just there but not there has been the story of both New Zealand and South Africa in Cricket World Cups. But the two rugby giants will now take on each other in the first 2015 Cricket World Cup semi-final on Tuesday at Eden Park, Auckland, traditionally a rugby match venue.
Going purely on the current form in the World Cup, New Zealand obviously are the favourites. South Africa are high on belief after breaking the knockout voodoo. While Proteas are entering this far in the World Cup for first time ever, Kiwis won’t want to remember their six semi-final losses at World Cups till date.
Besides form, Brendon McCullum-led side would take heart from the fact that they won their match played at this venue by the skin of their teeth while Proteas were handed a 29-run loss by Pakistan. Despite having short straight boundaries, this ground has given two low scoring games.
South Africa will be wary of their oppositions batting that have proven winners with bat till number six. McCullum time and again has given his side an unforgettable start. Martin Guptill rose from ashes and how, Kane Williamson played a blinder last time New Zealand won here, Ross Taylor is coming into his own slowly, Grant Elliot has time and again contributed crucial blows and Corey Anderson can be blindfolded and still hit balls out of the Eden Park.
Their bowling gets 50% credit for their progress in this World Cup. Led by the left armed Trent Boult, Kiwi's cherry hurling unit looks more complete than their semi-final opposition’s. Tim Southee cleaned up a strong Australian batting line up at the very same venue. Daniel Vettori is like an old wine, with age is getting better. Corey Anderson chips in with a wicket or two all the time and Matt Henry, replacement to Adam Milne will not get a better stage to perform ever.
Proteas also have a dream batting line up but hasn’t clicked as a unit as such. Quinton De Kock has just started finding middle of the bat. Hashim Amla is as consistent as ever. Faf du Plessis still hasn’t played a match-winning inning. It’s around AB de Villiers the entire team has rallied. JP Duminy and David Miller bring the firepower but then they couldn’t the last time they played on this ground.
For once, South Africa’s bowling is not their strength with an out of touch Dale Steyn, lone ranger Morne Morkel, bits and pieces Kyle Abbott and consistently attacking Imran Tahir in the ranks. Their weak link is the fifth bowler. JP Duminy took a hat-trick last game but is still not their best option. Against a batting line up like of Kiwis, Duminy can easily be taken for cleaners.
But predicting a winner will be foolish to say the least. The uncanny similarities between the two sides make them both 50-50 contenders. Both captains have smothered bowling attacks with their bats. They have the best spinners in the world in their sides. Fast bowlers with great control of line are their strengths and a word can’t be said against their fielding benchmarks.
Come Tuesday, one of the two sides will make their World Cup final debut. Who it will be? May the best team win.