Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Semi-Final Preview: Australia vs South Africa

After yesterday's somewhat surprisingly one sided affair fans the world over will be hoping for a closer contest this afternoon. The history between Australia and South Africa is plentiful, the desire to win on both sides strong. Having famously "choked" in 2003 and 1999, against Australia, South Africa will be desperate to win today and put to bed the lingering doubts over their ability to play the big games. Cricket is as much a mental game as it is a technical one, just ask Duncan Fletcher and the mental strength of the Australians is what separates them from the chasing pack. South Africa's batting line-up is almost as talented and long and has the ability to take the game to Australia.

Batting well provides South Africa's best chance of victory here. The Australian attack is not the strongest it has ever been, though it is undeniably mighty. If South Africa bat first and really get stuck in, they can reap the rewards derived from placing Australia under pressure. There are cracks within the Australian team, but you have to be on top of your game and extremely ruthless in order to exploit them. If you don't, then simply put, Australia will nail you! England showed that Australia are not infaliable, but also that if you give them a sniff they will go in for the kill.

South Africa are still bouyed by their victory just over a year ago, when they chased down over 400 to beat the Aussies. It is time though to forget that game, it is in the past, it was a different Aussie bowling attack and it was a one off game. The South African failure in the group stages proved the faliability of opting to chase. If Australia are allowed to set the pace and get above 350, nine times out of ten you will be out of the game before you have started. South Africa must realise that their best chance is to bat and put the Australian batting line up under pressure, especially considering that their attack is so one dimensional when bowling first, on what should be a belter of a wicket. No help for the seamers in St Lucia I'm afraid and it's easier to play the so far mysterious Brad Hogg when setting, rather than under the pressure of chasing.

Australia meanwhile are dominant. Undefeated in 27 World Cup games, spanning 8 years, they look focused, determined and most importantly of all, confident. Over confident? Not a chance. Since the Ashes 2005, this Australian side have risen their game to a new level and after the CB Series surprise, they are all to aware of the dangers which over confidence can bring. They can be beaten, but they won't lose. That is what makes them the best side in the World. With Australia completely dominating this World Cup to date Gill Woolmer has asked South Africa to "do it for Bob", we ask them to do it for the good of cricket!

Prediction: If South Africa bat first they can win this, if not the Aussie dominance will continue. It will be close with recent encounters standing at 3-3.

Key Players: The performances of Graeme Smith, Jaques Kallis, Brad Hogg and Shaun Tait could decide this one. The Aussie batsman rarely fail, so it will have to be their bowlers who do and the South African batsman who make the most of it if there is to be an upset.


Tony.T said...

Sorry to point out a couple of errors, Crispy, but:

Sorth Efrica didn't choke against Australia in the 2003 World Cup because we didn't play them. But they DID choke on their DuckyLoo calculations.

And when SA beat Australia in that 400 run match last year, it wasn't a stand-alone match, it was the fifth match of a five match series.

Chrispy said...

Having got revenge on Sri Lanka they couldn't do the same to Aus today.

The second match of that series back in March 06 was especially pleasing for those who don't support Australia. It was a fantastic series and i expected the Tests to be closer after South Africa's perfromances in Aus early in the year. My point was though that South Africa had to stop using that 435 run chase as a blue print for success. They won the series with that victory and made a mistake earlier on in the WC group stages in thinking that that was the way to beat Aus. In truth you are better setting as England found in the CB series. However, Saffers choked again, shame for the game really. Still the best two sides are in the final.

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