Graeme Smith says New Zealand, just like South Africa, have a possible weakness when it comes to chasing totals for victory at the World Cup.
South Africa meet New Zealand in Tuesday’s first World Cup semi-final, a play-off neither team has won in the history of the tournament.
Smith, in his column for the ICC official website, writes that the Blacks Caps are a well balanced and settled team who have been on the offensive since day one.
He does note, however, the ‘chinks in their armour’ which have been exposed when New Zealand have batted second.
‘New Zealand haven’t doubted their strategy, execution or ultimate objective for a moment,’ said Smith.
‘Against Scotland and Australia, however, they made relatively modest run chases look problematic and also snuck in against Bangladesh though chasing a slightly more imposing score.
‘Initially, it seemed as though the batting line-up was over dependent on Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson but all of the top and middle-order have now contributed and shown signs of very dangerous form. Nevertheless, the Proteas will have taken note their narrow victories batting second in an attempt to derive benefit from any perceived weakness.’
‘The make-up of their fifth bowler, like the Proteas, has also been a source of contention but has yet to prove as consequential as some may have thought. New Zealand has only once has to bowl out their allotted 50 overs [against Bangladesh] hence the Proteas will know the importance of batting deep into their innings so to try and exploit the minimum of 10 overs bowled between Anderson and Elliot.’
Smith feels the size of Eden Park might actually be South Africa’s biggest obstacle in reaching the final.
‘Eden Park has hosted three World Cup fixtures thus far this tournament and all have been fairly low scoring bar one. This includes the Pakistani defeat of the Proteas in the pool stage,’ he writes.
‘This is in stark contrast to the pre-tournament predictions that the dimensions of the field would ensure high scoring contests. The distance to the ropes beyond each end of the pitch is only 55 metres from the centre of the wicket whilst behind the batsman the rope is only 45 metres away,’ Smith explained.
‘The Eden Park ground may actually be the greatest challenge facing the Proteas on the day. The smaller field aided by a nation swept up in the euphoria of their team’s success will undoubtedly serve to disrupt the visiting team and the Proteas will know they need to settle into a rhythm as soon as possible to have any chance of progressing. Something which was definitely lacking against India.’
Talking about the composition of the Proteas starting XI, Smith said the selectors faced a difficult choice when deciding on who the third seamer should be.
‘The ball has been swinging more in New Zealand than it has in Australia this tournament, said Smith.
‘As opposed to Sri Lanka, who were especially destructive in the last ten overs, New Zealand have been chiefly severe on opposition attacks in the first 10 overs. This may lead the selectors to opt for Vernon Philander’s control as opposed to Kyle Abbott’s aggression. However, the prevalence of conditions favouring swing may assist the latter’s cause on the day.’