Cricket: Past Cup wins show Proteas are beatable

By David Leggat

They won't start as favourites in their World Cup quarter-final tonight, but that should not trouble the New Zealand team.

Or at least half a dozen of them, anyway.

Six of New Zealand's probable XI to face South Africa at the Shere Bangla Stadium in Mirpur were in the side which beat the same opponents by five wickets in Grenada at the last cup four years ago.

Captain Dan Vettori, allrounders Jacob Oram and James Franklin, wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum and batsmen Ross Taylor and Scott Styris were all involved in that victory.

Indeed four of them - Vettori, Oram, Styris and McCullum - were able to celebrate the nine-wicket win over South Africa at Johannesburg in the 2003 tournament, when Stephen Fleming hit his best ODI hundred to help push the hosts out of their own event after the pool play.

New Zealand have beaten South Africa in three of their five clashes. Mark Greatbatch and Rod Latham's belligerent opening stand of 114 set up a seven-wicket win at Eden Park in that cup of fabulous memories in 1992.

Fleming and Styris made important half centuries as New Zealand won by five wickets at Grenada four years ago as New Zealand made it to the semifinals for the fifth time in nine attempts thus far.

So beating South Africa should not be seen as a monumental task, certainly in mental terms.

And with the South Africans' well documented history of tumbling unexpectedly out of the cup before the final in the five tournaments played since they returned from international isolation, New Zealand should recognise an opportunity.

Having Vettori fit again is a significant boost; if senior seamer Kyle Mills makes it to the start line, all the better.

New Zealand should have banished from their minds their second wretched batting performance against a major nation. Facing the Sri Lankan spinners in Mumbai last weekend brought back all the old jitters.

If they study the South African lineup they will not see a Muralitharan or a Mendis, although Imran Tahir, if he starts, is a threat. South Africa's bowling will be tough and demanding, but there is nothing from their frontline men New Zealand have not seen before.

Among the ingredients New Zealand need to have in top working order are the front ends of both halves of their game.

Tim Southee has been New Zealand's best bowler, and one of the best in the cup so far, with 14 wickets. He was impressive against Sri Lanka in the heat of Mumbai and worked well in tandem with Oram.

But New Zealand will think hard about opening with a spinner, either Vettori or Nathan McCullum.

It is not a new ploy at the Cup. South Africa used it to good effect against England, the West Indies tried it with Sulieman Benn, with less success, while Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez played a trump card for Pakistan in their crushing win over the West Indies in the first quarter-final yesterday.

"We need to put South Africa under pressure early," New Zealand's bowling coach, former South African speed king Allan Donald, said. "That is the key. We could also be looking at opening with a spinner. That is another option."

Pressure is also what McCullum, Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder and Taylor need to apply with the bat in the first half of New Zealand's innings. Do that, make sure at the least they stay with South Africa deep in the game, and New Zealand should be right in the contest.

NEW ZEALAND
SOUTH AFRICA

Played: 51, South Africa won 30, New Zealand won 17, N/R 4.

World Cup match-ups: Played 5, New Zealand won 3, South Africa won 2.

At the Shere Bangla Stadium, Mirpur: South Africa have won all three games on the ground. New Zealand have played six times on the ground, winning once and losing five times.

Most recent result: The teams have met only once since 2007, South Africa winning by five wickets at Centurion in 2009.

- NZ Herald

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