Proteas vs history — and five other battles SA must win
Ngidi, De Kock and Maharaj will need to get the upper hand against Australia in the World Cup semi
The Proteas meet Australia in their Cricket World Cup semifinal at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday. Here are six key battles that can decide the big clash:
Ngidi vs Warner
Lungi Ngidi has dismissed the powerful left-hand opener four times in six games — all of those have been caught in the cover region. It suggests David Warner wants to attack him, but his control is lacking whether through the extra bounce Ngidi gets or the manner the quick bowler varies his pace. Ngidi’s spot may be a matter for debate for the Proteas selectors if they are looking to accommodate Tabraiz Shamsi and still want to keep Gerald Coetzee’s pace.
Hazlewood vs De Kock
Australia’s “Hoff” (Josh Hazlewood — Hasselhoff ... get it?) has dismissed Quinton de Kock more than any other bowler on the ODI circuit. The seven occasions he has sent him back to the changeroom have all been different and the only pattern that can be identified is Hazlewood’s accuracy.
He is able to deny De Kock the room he craves outside off stump, but is never straight enough that he gets clipped through midwicket. One of De Kock’s strengths, the pickup over backward square leg, is a shot Hazlewood has used to get him out and it will be part of the Australian strategy on Thursday.
Maharaj vs Maxwell
Rob Walter described Keshav Maharaj as an artist. He has had a magnificent World Cup, taking 14 wickets and providing captain Temba Bavuma with control through the middle overs while also being a wicket-taking threat.
One of his wickets was all-rounder Glenn Maxwell’s in Lucknow. In that match, Maxwell scored just one run against Maharaj off the eight balls he faced. After Maxwell’s mesmerising 201 not out against Afghanistan in Mumbai, he is firmly in SA’s sights, but they have controlled him well in the past.
Both teams’ death bowling
Neither team has set the tournament alight in this department. Australia’s “death bowling” problems go back to their tour to SA just before the World Cup. They were blitzed by the Proteas’ middle order, conceding 96 runs in the last 10 overs in Potchefstroom, 173 runs in Centurion and 113 runs at the Wanderers.
Afghanistan scored 61 runs in the last five overs in that Mumbai match. To Australia’s credit, when they faced the Proteas in Lucknow, they held them to 73 runs in the last 10 overs.
The Proteas, however, haven’t been much better and their concession of extras as they attempt wide yorkers is not a well-thought-through strategy. It isn’t going to get them wickets, and their execution of that particular ball is poor. Rather target the stumps.
Zampa vs Klaasen/Miller
Adam Zampa is the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 22, but he also averages 46.78 against the Proteas. The South Africans know how to nullify him. Can they keep that up on Thursday?
The Proteas are the team Zampa has struggled against the most. Besides that average, they are the only team (besides Afghanistan, whom he has only faced twice) that have been able to score at more than six runs an over against him. David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen, in particular, especially if they are batting together, have been devastating. That said, he’s got Klaasen out three times and if Eden Gardens assists spin he’ll be a threat.
Proteas vs History
“It’s been 30 years of sorrowful history,” was how one veteran Australian cricket scribe described SA’s World Cup record. The ICC did an insert about “choking”, interviewing the players, that runs during intervals on TV. The Australians will undoubtedly use it as a topic for their sledging.
It is just there. The only way to change that narrative is to win. When the pressure comes — as it undoubtedly will on Thursday — the players must simply confront it and overcome it. All that talk about processes needs to be put into practice now.
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