by Linesh Lalwani
To say that South Africa and New Zealand have underwhelmed in the knockout stages of cricket world cups would be stretching the mild politically correct term. New Zealand come into the game with a history that contains multiple semi-final exits and a quarter final exit in the previous editions of the tournament. Similarly, South Africa come into the game with a baggage of epic proportions. Their identity in the tournament has frequently been reduced to a snide derogatory term that begins with a “C” (No, I am not going to use that term!). To their credit they have staunchly countered it so far in this tournament. When questioned on the past before the quarterfinal, AB de Villiers said that “It is simple, we won’t choke”(oops, I ended up using the word). He has always been confident of his side’s status as the best team in the tournament.
Similarly, Brendon McCullum has probably ensured that New Zealand are the most aggressive side in the tournament. They have never taken a step back, frequently bowling out their best bowlers before the death overs. The logic being that if they take 10 wickets, there won’t be any death overs to think about. Such an approach has led to a hiding of weaknesses, their 5th bowler options in the form of Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot have not been tested at all. However, such an approach might backfire with an opponent like South Africa which has the one of the strongest batting line ups in the tournament. South Africa on the other hand seem like a well-rounded side with negligible chinks in their armor. However, there may some furrowed brows over De Kock’s lack of runs and the fact that their batting have failed against strong bowling attacks so far. Actually, AB de Villiers has been the only batsman who has looked consistent and will be key to what the side can do. He hasn’t looked like getting out this tournament and his battle against the New Zealand bowling lineup should be quite a sight. AB needs all the help he can get and will be hoping that the top order fires for once.
When the curtains unfold in a few hours, both the sides would step into the field with everything to lose. Neither of them is an underdog that has punched above its weight whereas both walk into the game wanting to prove that they have it in them to take their game to the next level. What goes without saying is that the two teams have led the way so far in terms of outstanding performances. Yet, at this stage they are challenging posterity and courting providence in order to overcome the baggage of the past. Let the games begin.
Somil would like you to know that he is punting for New Zealand to win. He thinks South Africa will choke. I’m content to just watch equals battle it out and did I tell you I hate the C word?