South Africa v New Zealand: Perennial semi-finalists eye final berth

Cricket World Cup Trophy

South Africa and co-hosts New Zealand will contest the first semi-final of the cricket World Cup from 0100 GMT tomorrow in Auckland.

Neither the Kiwis nor the Proteas have ever reached the final of cricket's showpiece event. The former have already racked up six semi-final defeats - the most by any nation - from their 10 appearances, while the latter have lost three times in six - including that memorable tie against Australia in 1999.

New Zealand head into the match as one of only two sides to have won all of their matches in this year's tournament - the other being India - and have combined the historic trait of their one-day side, that of being supremely disciplined and well-led, with a new aggression that has not always been present in the past.

Their captain Brendon McCullum has led from the front in this regard and has empowered his pace bowlers to take wickets rather than merely to try and prevent the opposition from scoring runs. 

South Africa's performances at this tournament have been more inconsistent. They have recorded defeats to India and Pakistan alongside the more impressive showings against West Indies and Ireland where they passed 400 on both occasions.

They will face the predictable accusations of 'choking' under pressure if they fail to reach the final once again, but they can be no more than joint favourites against a New Zealand side who have peaked, in terms of the four-year World Cup cycle, at just the right time. The last time the two sides met was at the start of the New Zealand summer when the Proteas came out on top but that will count for very little tomorrow.

Strengths and weaknesses:

It is probably fair to suggest that both teams' strengths lie in their bowling. Both have a potent trio of speedsters: New Zealand with Tim Southee and Trent Boult leading the way and South Africa with Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

Both also have a strong lead spinner in Daniel Vettori and Imran Tahir respectively. A key difference is the fifth bowler. New Zealand have a genuine all-rounder in Corey Anderson, along with effective part-timers in Grant Elliott and Kane Williamson, while South Africa, who chose not to select Ryan McLaren in their 15-man squad, have tended to try and muddle through overs from a combination of AB de Villiers, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy and Rilee Rossouw.

That is an obvious weakness for them despite the fact that Duminy took a hat-trick last time out.

However, that weakness in the bowling does mean they play seven batsmen, with someone like Rilee Rossouw expected to bat at seven and follow a powerful middle-order that includes lynchpin AB de Villiers, David Miller, Duminy and Faf du Plessis. That quartet is arguably better than New Zealand's corresponding one.

The opening pair, though, is a definitely an area where the home side have the upper hand. Martin Guptill, who hit a record high score of 237 in their quarter-final defeat of West Indies, and McCullum are both aggressive and in excellent form. By contrast, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock have endured quiet tournaments by their high standards.

Pitch and conditions:

Rain is forecast for Monday night in Auckland and that could linger in the form of showers into the afternoon. Otherwise, it will be a relatively warm Autumnal day with temperatures of up to 22 degrees Celsius.

The ground at Eden Park possesses notoriously small boundaries but that has not shown itself in high totals during this tournament due to the swing that the bowlers have found. None of the three matches have seen a side score over 300, while the Pool A game between Australia and New Zealand saw the two teams struggle to make that many between them. 

Team news:

New Zealand have been dealt a blow on the eve of the match with the news that fast bowler Adam Milne has been ruled out of the tournament due to a heel injury.

Canterbury paceman Matt Henry has been called up as a like-for-like replacement and could leapfrog Kyle Mills and Mitchell McClenaghan to make the final eleven. Henry has been playing red-ball cricket in recent times and took six wickets last time out against Central Districts in the Plunket Shield.

Probable XI: Brendon McCullum (captain), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi (wicket-keeper), Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Trent Boult.

South Africa will hope to have Vernon Philander available again for selection after he missed the quarter-final win against Sri Lanka due to injury. If fit, he will probably slot back into the side ahead of Kyle Abbott. It is unlikely that Farhaan Behardien or Wayne Parnell will be preferred to Rilee Rossouw.

Probable XI: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (captain), Rilee Rossouw, David Miller, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

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