A pumped up New Zealand’s energy will clash with the seemingly unmatched might of South Africa when the two teams strive to shed the past baggage of semifinal failures and seal a historic place in the 2015 cricket World Cup final in Auckland on Tuesday.
Both the teams are chasing history for as neither hosts New Zealand nor the Proteas have ever reached the World Cup final.
The Kiwis have fallen at the semifinal stage six times in the past while South Africa has made three exits from the same stage.
New Zealand were a dominant side in the pool stage and the way they annihilated the West Indies in the quarterfinal, thanks to the batting pyrotechnics of Martin Guptill, the hosts are bubbling with newfound energy.
They have looked unstoppable with seven straight wins, with every match throwing up a new hero — the latest being Guptill, who smashed his way to history books with a scintillating 237 not out against the Caribbeans.
New Zealand have treated the rival attacks with utter disdain so far, but with the Proteas they face the might of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel who, when in form, can devastate any batting line-up in the world.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said past failures wouldn’t matter much since the two sides are playing gloriously.
“I don’t think there’s any baggage with anyone. It’s a one-off game and we are all desperate to be at the big party and I’m sure we’ll both turn up. The two sides are playing good cricket and it’s going to be a heck of a show,” he said.
The only worrying factor for New Zealand is that they have lost paceman Adam Milne to a heel injury, making way for young fast bowler Matt Henry in the squad.
It is the last match that New Zealand will host in this edition and they would love to sign off on home turf on a winning note but the opponents they are facing now are equally potent and more dangerous than any other team.
The pressure of expectations will be there from the home fans but skipper Brendon McCullum said they would not think about it much.
“The way we’ve been playing has been a pretty exciting brand of cricket. Just because it’s a pressure game we shouldn’t change that. It’s our greatest chance of success.
For us to win World Cups and crunch games we need to remain true to that. That’s our most authentic style of cricket and I wouldn’t think that will change tomorrow,” he said.
While New Zealand has always played as underdogs, the Proteas have carried the tag of chokers along and it won’t leave the team if it fails to win on Tuesday.
“There has been a lot of emphasis on our past and South Africa not doing well at World Cups. We don’t mind that too much. I have gone through the whole package of emotions, fighting it, accepting it, then fighting it again,” South African captain A.B. de Villiers said.
De Villiers himself would be crucial to how the strong contenders perform on Tuesday given that his bat has been the most potent among all his teammates. Higher up the order, the responsibility falls on Hashim Amla and the back-in-form Quinton de Kock. Faf du Plessis’ bat has been relatively quiet and a big innings would be expected from it now.
It is touch-and-go as to who will win the match as the two teams possess able batsmen and equally potent attacks, holding out promise for an explosive clash.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (Captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Luke Ronchi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson and Matt Henry.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (Captain), Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw and Dale Steyn.
Match starts at 6:30 IST.