One side endured the agony of a close defeat and other felt the ecstacy of victory in a rip-roaring game but when New Zealand and South Africa clash in a World Cup game here on Wednesday both will start on an even keel.
The current edition of World Cup has featured mostly lopsided games but if the two games stood out, one certainly was South Africa’s one-wicket win against Pakistan in Chennai and New Zealand nearly pulled off a sensational chase of 388 against Australia before finishing five runs short.
With both teams firmly in contention for semi-final berths, one can expect good game of cricket where batters of both sides are expected to set the tone of the match.
For New Zealand (8 points from 6 games) , the Dharamsala-leg after four straight victories didn’t pan out on expected lines and another loss would give the likes of Afghanistan (6 points) and Pakistan (4 points) a shot at semi-final qualification.
On the other hand, if South Africa (10 points from 6 games) win, the 12 points will almost put them in the last-four bracket alongside India.
Hence, it would be one of the most high-stakes game of the league stage and a team like Pakistan wouldn’t mind if New Zealand suffer a hat-trick of defeats.
Both teams have put up more than impressive bating performances in most of the games but the track at the Maharashtra Cricket Association ground in Gahunje hasn’t exactly been a belter with spinners getting sufficient help like Afghanistan spinners did against Sri Lanka in their seven-wicket victory.
Old vs New
The most interesting aspect of the contest is the form of batters from both sides which has been the reason of their success so far. Quinton de Kock (431), with three hundreds so far, has had perfect swansong tourney and would be determined to leave the ODI platform on a high. As destructive as anyone on his day, De Kock has been rolling back years and showing what he is capable of.
If De Kock has pulverised the opposition with his game of power and timing, on the other end young Rachin Ravindra (406), with more of Sachin Tendulkar’s flair and a bit of Rahul Dravid’s grit, is setting the world stage on fire.
The left-hander has announced his arrival as New Zealand cricket’s next batting sensation and the manner in which he plays the aerial shots is a visual delight. Add to it, his steady but unspectacular slow left-arm orthodox bowling, makes him a complete package.
What makes it difficult to choose between the sides is the performance of the batters — if Heinrich Klaasen (300 runs) is the power-hitting cum finisher for South Africa, New Zealand have their match in Jimmy Neesham, who nearly pulled off an improbable heist in fading lights at Dharamsala.
If David Miller’s brute power gives an x-factor to Proteas, Daryl Mitchell’s (322 runs) ability to take the game deep is an advantage for the Black Caps.
Aiden Markram’s skills could be countered by Glenn Phillips’ talent as both bring another facet of their game — spin bowling to the table. In fact, the batting similarities do not end there. Even the rival captains have similar batting styles. Both Temba Bavuma and Tom Latham, leading in place of an injured Kane Williamson, are dogged accumulators, who once set, can be a thorn in the opposition flesh.
South Africa will expect that pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada is fit and raring to go after missing out on the Pakistan game in Chennai. Rabada has that aura which can always worry opposition and his presence certainly helps youngsters like Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen to up their game.
One department where South Africa hold a distinct advantage is having both Keshav Maharaj’s orthodox left-arm spin and Tabraiz Shamsi’s left-arm wrist spin.
While Shamsi won the ‘Player of the Match’ award against Pakistan, New Zealanders will not be too worried as they played Kuldeep Yadav comfortably in the opening game.
New Zealand have Mitchell Santner in their ranks but Phillips after his stellar under four runs in a 10-over spell has come up well as the second spinner with Ish Sodhi being confined to reserve bench.
Teams from: South Africa: Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen and Lizaad Williams.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (vc & wk), Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee and Will Young.
Match Starts: 2 pm.