Veteran left-arm-spinner Daniel Vettori holds the key to New Zealand’s success against South Africa in the semi-final on Tuesday, says former Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming.
He is a trump card in a formidable bowling line-up, says Fleming, and Brendon McCullum should look to bowl first and let the bowlers put the Proteas under pressure.
‘One look at the talent on show on either side means it has the potential to be a classic,’ Fleming writes in a column on the official ICC website. ‘But with no disrespect to Imran Tahir, who has taken wickets for South Africa, and JP Duminy, whose hat-trick against Sri Lanka was a real surprise, New Zealand really do have a trump card when it comes to slow bowling.
‘That was never better illustrated than by the job he did in the match against Australia at the venue for this latest match-up – Eden Park. No-one expected spin to be a factor, least of all on a ground with tiny straight boundaries and on a pitch that did not offer any real purchase, but Vettori bowled superbly against Michael Clarke’s men.
‘His quality could be key once more, especially as there appears little or nothing to choose between the two line-ups of fast bowlers with Steyn and Morkel up against Boult and Southee. What a match-up that is.’
South Africa’s Achilles heel, says Fleming, is their fifth bowler.
‘In the quarter-final Duminy was able to operate with no pressure because Sri Lanka felt unable to attack him after losing early wickets, but if New Zealand have wickets in the bank when he, or even AB de Villiers, comes on to bowl then the tables might be well and truly turned.’
New Zealand’s cause would also be served by bowling first and chasing the score.
‘In a winner-take-all match and chasing any sort of score to get through to a World Cup final for the first time can create its own pressure. But if I was McCullum I think I would look to bowl first and unleash Boult and Southee on South Africa in an attempt to put them under pressure. With those short boundaries, the side batting first can always fall into the trap of going too hard too early, thinking it needs a mammoth score, something Australia was guilty of, and so bowling first can still be an advantage.’
‘As the captain that led New Zealand to the semi-finals but no further in both 1999 and 2007, what advice would I give McCullum as he attempts to go one better? Just keep doing what you are doing is the simple answer.’