New Zealand v South Africa: De Villiers to star but Black Caps to win
The first semi-final of the 2015 World Cup is the game which most would have picked as their ideal final, with hosts New Zealand meeting South Africa in Auckland. It promises to be a tremendous contest and Richard O'Hagan previews it below...
"De Villiers has scored more runs than anyone else in the team and picked up a couple of surprise wickets, too. At [4.9] he isn’t the best priced member of the team, but on form he is the safest bet."
New Zealand v South Africa
Tuesday at 0100 GMT
Live on Sky Sports 2
The Black Caps made sure that the ICC's dream scenario of both host nations reaching the semi-finals came about with a thumping win over the West Indies in the quarter finals. That victory will have been sweetened by the fact that a competition record 237 runs came from the bat of underrated opener Martin Guptil, rather than the more heralded members of the batting lineup such as Brendon McCullum or Kane Williamson. Indeed, one of the features of their success not only in this competition but over the last twelve months or more has been the ability of the other team members to step in where the big players fail.
Not, of course, that those big names fail often. McCullum and Williamson have had fine tournaments, the bowling attack of Boult, Southee, Milne and Vettori has baffled batsmen with its variety and accuracy, whilst Luke Ronchi has at last grown into the wicketkeeper/batsman role that he was marked out for so many years ago. Unfortunately, a heel injury has ruled Adam Milne out of the tournament, but with a choice of veteran Kyle Mills or the explosive Mitchell McClenaghan waiting to replace him there should be no effect upon the potency of the attack. Make no mistake about it, this team are now very serious contenders indeed.
Another opening batsman returning to form in the quarter-finals was the Proteas' Quinton de Kock, who more than doubled his run tally for the tournament in the flaying of Sri Lanka. Be wary of reading too much into that knock, though, as de Kock was facing a bowling attack clearly dispirited by having seen their team take almost 40 overs to barely reach 130. New Zealand will be a much sterner test for him.
One of the main factors in that Sri Lankan total was the stifling bowling of South Africa's spinners, Imran Tahir and JP Duminy. Tahir has been surprisingly effective in this tournament, regularly taking wickets despite the innocuous and erratic leg spin that he bowls. Duminy's reliability, even though he is a less regular bowler, allows the Proteas to play just four specialists and strengthen their batting lineup. If South Africa are to finally reach a World Cup final these two will have a major say in them doing so, especially bearing in mind the short boundaries for this semi-final.
Venue and Conditions
Those short boundaries at Eden Park in Auckland haven't had as much of an influence as you might expect. New Zealand and Australia barely scraped 300 runs between them for the loss of 19 wickets earlier in the competition, South Africa made only 202 on their one appearance here to date and no side has yet cleared 300. It would be unwise to bet on there being more than 575 runs in this game.
South Africa are [1.79] favourites, with New Zealand the [2.24] outsiders. Bear in mind that New Zealand are unbeaten in the competition so far, and that South Africa lost their only previous game in Auckland. Even with two days' less rest, the Black Caps look to be the smart bet here.
New Zealand have never yet gone beyond a semi-final at a World Cup. Their hopes of doing so here will rest firmly on the shoulders of the captain, McCullum. He's shown throughout his career that he is the man for the big occasion so far as this team is concerned, so back him at [4.8].
The South African's are also led by a man who rarely fails when the pressure is on. So far in this tournament AB de Villiers has scored more runs than anyone else in the team and picked up a couple of surprise wickets, too. At [4.9] he isn't the best priced member of the team, but on form he is the safest bet.
Back AB de Villiers to be top South African batsman at [4.9]
Richard's World Cup P/L
Australian Wallet Transfer
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