Cricket World Cup 2011

SA versatility key in quarters

2011-03-25 07:26
Imran Tahir could prove to be a key figure in the encounter. (AFP)

Mumbai - South Africa savour the luxury of choice before they settle on a team for Friday's World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand in Dhaka.

Gallery: Proteas out and about

Gallery: Proteas train ahead of their quarter-final clash

The South Africans have spent the past 10 days in Bangladesh after finishing top of their qualifying group, with plenty of time to decide how they will combat the potential threat of the New Zealand top order.

New Zealand possess dangerous strikers of the ball in Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor, and a good finisher in Scott Styris, as they demonstrated in the group win over Pakistan.

With this is mind, South Africa may go into the match with three frontline spinners to take the pace off the ball and exploit a pitch on which the Pakistan spinners demolished West Indies on Wednesday. AB de Villiers may take the gloves instead of Morne van Wyk.

South African captain Graeme Smith would not be drawn on Thursday when he was asked if a team with the best opening bowlers in the competition might be tempted to give the new ball to a spinner.

"As far as tactical things, I've been thinking about a few things this week," he replied. "We've done some video work, some planning, we'll see what happens tomorrow."

He was, though, prepared to talk at length about the qualities Robin Peterson, Imran Tahir and Johan Botha bring to the team in their contrasting styles.

"The thing about our three spinners is they're very different. They've all performed different roles at different times. The versatility of the guys has been great," he said.

"They've worked well together. Imran's definitely been the more attacking option for us. To have him back in the line-up adds a bit more to me as a captain."

Leg-spinner Tahir missed two of South Africa's group matches with a fractured thumb, giving an opportunity to off-spinner Johan Botha, who not so long ago was South Africa's premier one-day spinner.

New Zealand will field an outstanding spinner themselves in captain Daniel Vettori, the world's top-ranked one-day bowler.

Vettori, who missed the last two group matches after straining a ligament in his right knee, is a gritty, combative character who has made himself into a genuine international all-rounder.

New Zealanders hate losing to South Africa on either the rugby pitch or the cricket field, and the Kiwis have finished on top in matches between the two countries in the last two World Cups.

"I think South Africa have been one of the form teams in world cricket for a long time, we know it's going to be a huge challenge," Vettori said.

"But I think like any captain would say that it's about what we do on the day. We can play well and we give ourselves a chance."

Head-to-head record:

South Africa lead 30-17 (NR: 4)

In World Cups: New Zealand lead 3-2

In the sub-continent: 1-1

* South Africa have the head-to-head advantage, but the two teams have played only one match in the last three years, won by South Africa by five wickets.

* New Zealand have had the measure of South Africa in World Cups. The two teams have played each other in every tournament since 1992, and New Zealand have won their last two encounters by nine wickets (2003) and five wickets (2007).

* Shere Bangla National Stadium favours teams batting second (18-29 in favour of chasing) including a run from Jan 2009 to Mar 2010 when 17 consecutive matches were won by the team chasing.

* South Africa trounced Bangladesh in the group stages and have won all three games on the ground.

* New Zealand, on the other hand, lost 4-0 to Bangladesh in October last year and have only one win from seven matches there.

* South Africa (WWWLWW) topped Group B, losing to England only. New Zealand (LWWWLW) qualified by finishing fourth in Group A.

* For South Africa, AB de Villiers (318 runs from four innings at an average of 106.00) has been the man in form. De Villiers, Hashim Amla (299) and JP Duminy (220) have ensured the lack of runs from captain Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, has not had a serious effect.

* For the Kiwis, the top order including Ross Taylor (245 runs), Brendon McCullum (239 runs) and Martin Guptill (222 runs), have contributed handsomely.

* The New Zealand pace bowlers and the South Africa spinners have performed admirably. Robin Peterson (14 wickets) and Imran Tahir (12 wickets from four matches) have led the way for South Africa. New Zealand paceman Tim Southee (14 wickets) is among the leading wicket takers in the tournament.


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