Archie Henderson

'David v Goliath' semi battle

2007-04-24 09:36

Archie Henderson

Sorry to be an old curmudgeon, but South Africa won't win their Cricket World Cup semi-final against Australia.

Firstly, the venue won't suit the Proteas.

By all accounts the ground at Gros Islet in the Beausejour hills of St Lucia, has been sluggish throughout the World Cup.

That does not suit the South Africans, who enjoy a hard, fast surface - like the one on which they beat England in Barbados - not only because their fast bowlers can use it effectively but also because it suits their batsmen.

Players like Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers like to hit through the line, and are damn good at it.

On this pitch you have to wait for the ball and work it through the gaps on both sides of the wicket. Whether through impatience or plain inability, this is not something that comes easily to many of the Proteas batsmen.

Ashwell Prince is a rare exception, which is why it might help to promote him up the order.

Historical precedent

Secondly, the Aussies are in that frame of mind where they genuinely believe no one on this planet can beat them.

In seeking a historical precedent for a South African victory you would need to reach back to biblical times when a young flyweight called David boxed way above his weight.

Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden are not just being arrogant about expecting victory on Wednesday night, they are being realistic.

Thirdly, Ponting is a better captain than Smith.

Remember how brilliantly he placed his fielders in that first-round clash in St Kitts?

There seemed to be 22 Aussies on the park whereas Smith's field-placings have been unimaginative.

Ponting has also been there before: he has won the cup and he knows what it takes.

Big-hearted

Fourthly, man for man the Aussies are better than the South Africans.

The only exception is the big-hearted Andrew Hall, who still has the edge over the injury-prone Shane Watson.

Also South Africa's strategy of chasing has not worked in the important matches in this World Cup.

In the four games where they won the toss and fielded first, they won only twice: against Scotland and Ireland (hardly worth mentioning).

They lost against Australia and, notoriously, Bangladesh.

Juice

Australia will have noted this and are likely to bat first if they win the toss - just as they did against New Zealand.

They won't even mind if there is some juice in the early wicket, as there has often been with the ridiculous 09:30 starts in this World Cup to suit TV audiences. Smith, again, is likely to chase.

Finally, Ali Bacher has tipped the Proteas to win.

If all the above sounds gloomy, there is always the chance of reverse psychology working. It may be the Proteas only chance.

  • Archie Henderson is a former Cape Argus sports editor.

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