Proteas’ attack a more difficult prospect for Kiwis
BASKING in the afterglow of Martin Guptill's stunning 237 not out against the West Indies, New Zealand will need to refocus quickly ahead of tomorrow's World Cup semi-final in Auckland.
Guptill's innings (pictured) was extraordinary by any measure, but the Proteas attack will provide an examination of an entirely different nature to that proffered by the West Indies.
In Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander, South Africa has an imposing pace battery which can undermine the confidence of any side, while leg-spinner Imran Tahir has also taken 15 wickets in the tournament.
The Proteas have had the wood on New Zealand in one-day matches in recent times, easily winning the first two games of a three-match series late last year, before game three in Hamilton was washed out.
And of course it was only two years and two months ago when the Black Caps were embarrassed for just 45 on the first day of a Test match in the Republic. Steyn and Morkel combined for five wickets, while Philander took the other five. Brendon McCullum, Guptill and new star Kane Williamson all played in that match and some scars may remain.
The Black Caps were also exposed by the electric pace and movement of Australian quick Mitchell Starc earlier in this tournament, the left-armer taking 6-28 before New Zealand escaped with a one-wicket win.
That bowling was in contrast to what the Kiwi batsmen faced in a host of lead-up matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, whose seamers rarely tested them with the new ball.
Facing bowlers who can deliver at around 150kph is a different challenge altogether, as will be dealing with Tahir who turns 36 on Friday and could be the semi-final wildcard.
Quality leg-spin bowling is rarely seen on the international stage, and Tahir has taken 70 wickets in 37 ODIs at 19.94 since making his debut in 2011.
Despite New Zealand's unbeaten run, bookmakers remain unconvinced, with TattsBet installing South Africa the $1.80 favourites to make their first World Cup final.
- APN SPORTS BUREAU