New Zealand and South Africa look to prove themselves

2015 ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final preview – New Zealand vs South Africa

Teams

Both sides should remain unchanged after resounding victories in their quarter-finals, although South Africa still seem to be debating which of Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott should play. As a result it is possible that Abbott could be an omission from the team.
New Zealand (likely): Guptill, McCullum, Williamson, Taylor, Anderson, Elliot, Ronchi, Vettori, Southee, Milne, Boult.
South Africa (likely): Amla, de Kock, du Plessis, Rossouw, de Villiers, Miller, Duminy, Abbott/Philander, Steyn, Morkel, Tahir.

Tactics

During the World Cup both sides have had clear preferences as to batting or bowling first. The South Africans have struggled chasing, but when batting first they have scored 339, 408, 411 and 341. New Zealand, on the other hand, have looked good fielding first and knocking the other side over for less than 200. This plan may work against the South Africans, but either way New Zealand should try to avoid setting. While they fell just 7 runs short of 400 in their quarter final almost all of that was Martin Guptill’s innings of 237 not out. South Africa will look to bat first, get runs on the board and put New Zealand under pressure.

Key Players

Martin Guptill (New Zealand)
Guptill will be relied upon to make more runs than any other player in the New Zealand team. He is in brilliant form and has made scores of 57, 105 and 237 not out in his last three games. South Africa will look to knock him over quickly.

Hashim Amla (South Africa)
Amla plays a very steady hand in South Africa’s team, and their batting strategy is built around Amla and Faf du Plessis setting up AB de Villiers for the last fifteen overs. Amla will not bat particularly quickly, but his technique is unsurpassed and he will be difficult to get out.

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
Williamson will be called upon at number three if there is an early wicket, and he will bat for as long as he can. He has a very cool head, as shown by his match-winning innings against Australia. He will be relied upon to string together partnerships and add to his one half-century for the World Cup.

Dale Steyn (South Africa)
Steyn is very economical at the start of the innings, but it is his wicket-taking South Africa will depend upon. If he can claim the prize scalps of McCullum and Guptill then he will have taken South Africa a long way towards putting New Zealand out of the tournament.

Trent Boult (New Zealand)
Boult will be looking to break the South African batting open like he did to the West Indies on Saturday. He has 19 wickets for the tournament, and he has dismissed some of the best players, including an in-form Kumar Sangakkara. He will need to knock over one or both of the openers early.

Faf du Plessis (South Africa)
Du Plessis has to occupy the crease with Amla, de Kock and possibly Rossouw so that de Villiers can do maximum damage. He is cool under pressure and his batting this tournament has been very good. If he can make a few runs he will be a big factor.

Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
McCullum is an aggressive opening bat who will look to attack South Africa from the first ball. The Eden Park boundaries are small, and if he clears them regularly it will be very hard for South Africa. His and Martin Guptill’s are the key wickets at the start of the innings.

Imran Tahir (South Africa)
Tahir has been one of the most impressive spinners this tournament has seen. He has taken more wickets than any other South African bowler and has kept the runs down admirably. Today he will look to plug up scoring in the middle overs, much like Daniel Vettori will do for the kiwis.

Prediction

While New Zealand have been practically flawless this tournament they will be under great pressure. They are still a young side, and the more experienced South Africans, having finally won a knockout match, will be very hard to knock off. South Africa to win a close one.

 

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2015 ICC Cricket World Cup Preview – 1 day to go

Tomorrow the World Cup kicks off, and I have looked at all of the teams. Now, with one day to go until the World Cup I close out my preview with my final predictions as to who will win the World Cup.

Group A

Group A combines Australia, Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland. The Australians and New Zealanders will be expected to do very well at their home tournaments, and while that could prove too much both sides have performed well recently and you would expect them to progress. Sri Lanka and England are both strong, but have both struggled in matches against New Zealand and Australia respectively. Bangladesh should be able to beat Afghanistan and the Scottish but will struggle against the other countries. Expect a close contest between Afghanistan and Scotland, as it is very likely that both teams will be pushing for their first tournament win.
Prediction: 1. Australia, 2. New Zealand, 3. Sri Lanka, 4. England, 5. Bangladesh, 6. Afghanistan, 7. Scotland.

Group B

Group B brings together India, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and the UAE. The Indians have struggled for form in their recent tri-series, and this is a worry heading into such an important tournament. By contrast the South Africans have had no such qualms, comfortably beating the West Indians at home in their most recent series. The West Indies are still feeling the impact of the player boycott during the tour of India, with senior players not being picked and the side in general disarray. Pakistan may well struggle on the Australian wickets, but they are not to be underestimated. The Zimbabweans and the Irish will see the recent struggles of the West Indians as an opportunity to possibly sneak into the quarter-finals, and that will lead to a competitive and evenly-matched battle between the sides. The UAE will be keen to impress but will struggle at the highest level.
Prediction: 1. South Africa, 2. India, 3. Pakistan, 4. West Indies, 5. Ireland, 6. Zimbabwe, 7. UAE.

This leaves the quarter final match-ups of: Australia vs West Indies, New Zealand vs Pakistan, India vs Sri Lanka, South Africa vs England. The Australians should comfortably dispose of the West Indies, and while New Zealand and Pakistan were evenly matched in their series in the UAE the New Zealanders should have the edge at home. India and Sri Lanka are evenly matched, but Sri Lanka should win on batting depth. South Africa should just have too much class for the English. With those results Australia would play Sri Lanka in the semi-final. The Australians are probably the better team at home, and Sri Lanka would struggle. The other semi-final would pit South Africa against New Zealand. South Africa probably have too much experience and class for New Zealand, and that leaves a final match-up of Australia and South Africa. On paper the two sides are very evenly matched, and are probably the best two sides in the world. In the end the Australians depth with the bat should win out, and so I predict that the Australians will take out the World Cup on home soil.

My Predictions
1st: Australia.
2nd: South Africa.
Semi-Finals: New Zealand, Sri Lanka.
Quarter-Finals: England, India, Pakistan, West Indies.
Group Stage: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, Scotland, UAE, Zimbabwe.
Most Runs: AB de Villiers (South Africa).
Most Wickets: Mitchell Starc (Australia).

Thank you for reading my eight-part World Cup preview, and be on the look out for more posts during the World Cup.

 

2015 ICC Cricket World Cup Preview – 3 days to go

Welcome to the sixth instalment of my World Cup preview. In this preview and tomorrow’s I will finish off my team-by-team previews by looking at the top four teams in the World Cup. Today I look at Sri Lanka and South Africa, two of the best one day sides in the world.

Sri Lanka (Group A)

Fixtures: vs New Zealand, Hagley Oval, Christchurch, vs Afghanistan, University Oval, Dunedin, vs Bangladesh, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs England, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, vs Australia, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, vs Scotland, Bellerive Oval, Hobart.
Squad: Angelo Mathews (c), Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Tillikaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene, Dimuth Karunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne.

Sri Lanka are a very strong side in limited overs cricket, and they should be able to mount a charge for the title. Angelo Mathews has developed into an all-rounder whose batting is good enough to grant him selection to any side in the world, and Kumar Sangakkara is a class performer who can also keep. The experienced Mahela Jayawardene can combine well with Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal in the middle-order, while Tillikaratne Dilshan and Dimuth Karunaratne should provide a great start to the innings. Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera lead the bowling attack, and Sri Lanka should be able to keep the runs down when in the field, a quality which could win them plenty of matches.

Finding another bowler could prove difficult, however, as while Mathews can bowl they will want another alternative. This will most likely be Sachithra Senanayake and his off-spin, but the other issue is the fitness of Malinga. He is injured, and he may well miss parts of the tournament. Dushmantha Chameera and Suranga Lakmal will have to fill the hole he leaves, and this is a fairly big hole. If Malinga is completely ruled out of the tournament it could become even more of an issue for the Sri Lankans, especially as Mathews would be deprived of his main strike bowler. Death bowling could also prove an issue, as Malinga is definitely their best at this stage of the innings, but the batting is complete and the bowling is still fairly strong.

South Africa (Group B)

Fixtures: vs Zimbabwe, Seddon Park, Hamilton, vs India, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs West Indies, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, vs Ireland, Manuka Oval, Canberra, vs Pakistan, Eden Park, Auckland, vs UAE, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington.
Squad: AB de Villiers (c/wk), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir.

South Africa have been one of the best teams in the world for years, and they have reacted very well to the retirements of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, who were mainstays of their team for years. The one-day side has stayed strong, and in Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock they have the best ODI opening partnership in the world, and AB de Villiers recently smashed the record for the fastest ODI century with an innings of 149 off 44 balls. David Miller, de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy form the backbone of the middle order. It appears likely that de Villiers will keep in de Kock’s absence and youngster Rilee Rossouw will open the batting. In Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel the Proteas boast a formidable pace attack.

While the pace attack is very strong there are a couple of very important issues they need to solve before the World Cup. The South Africans lack a first choice spinner, and neither Imran Tahir or Aaron Phangiso have mounted a particularly compelling case for selection. The other choice is to pick Kyle Abbott and play five pacemen, but that would leave an attack without variety. The other worry is the fifth bowler. A year ago Ryan McLaren looked like the answer, but now Wayne Parnell and Farhaan Behardien will look to fill this role. Behardien, however, can only be described as a part-timer, and he is not a penetrating bowler. It could be a real worry, but if the South Africans can make the runs to protect their bowling attack they will do very well in this tournament.

Tomorrow: I look at the top 2 ranked one day sides in the world when I preview India and Australia.

 

Series provides players with World Cup selection push

Australia vs South Africa ODI series preview

On Friday the 5-match ODI series between Australia and South Africa kicks off, and both sides will be looking to test out some options before February’s ICC World Cup. The series is extra important for South Africa as this is probably their last chance to play in Australia before the World Cup, and they will probably relish the opportunity to give stars such as Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Dale Steyn and all of their formidable attack a run-through on the Australian wickets. For Australia, however, this series presents an opportunity to test out some of their pacemen, and for Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson this presents a perfect opportunity to press their respective claims before the World Cup. With Brad Haddin’s shoulder injury ruling him out indefinitely Matthew Wade has a serious chance to firmly establish himself as the next best keeper.

The squads

Australia: Michael Clarke (c), George Bailey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steven Smith, Matthew Wade (wk), David Warner, Shane Watson.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (c/wk), Hashim Amla (vc), Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir.

Australia

The Australians have named a side that should combine competition for places within with a very competitive output. The middle order of Steve Smith, Michael Clarke and George Bailey is very strong, as is the dynamic opening pairing of Aaron Finch and David Warner. This series presents a chance for all-rounders such as Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson to cement a place in the side before the World Cup, although Maxwell already seems assured due to his more-than-handy off spin. For Coulter-Nile, Hazlewood and Richardson, all of whom have showed great form in recent domestic competitions, this series provides an opportunity to obtain the last places in the bowling attack. While there is not much competition in the middle order Watson and Marsh will be seriously pushing to take one of those slots.
Likely team: Finch, Warner, Watson, Clarke/Bailey, Smith/Marsh, Maxwell, Wade, Johnson, Richardson, Coulter-Nile, Hazlewood.

South Africa

The South African squad is very near full strength, and while I think that there will still be some experimentation, particularly in the middle-order and bowling attack, the side will be hard to beat. Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock form a brilliant opening partnership, and no-one is going to challenge their place in the side. The same goes for AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, and although they could be rested to give players an opportunity in the middle-order it seems unlikely that they will not be picked. In the middle order David Miller, Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien will all be looking for a big series, especially as first-choice middle-order player JP Duminy is out with injury. With Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Ryan McLaren all likely to stay in the first-team throughout the World Cup, there is lots of competition for not many spots. Spinners Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir probably have the best chance of getting a spot in the team but if pacemen Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell play well enough they could replace one of the first choice fast bowlers. As it stand Steyn, Morkel and probably Philander will probably be rotated throughout the series to allow the others a chance to prove themselves.
Likely team: Amla, de Kock, de Villiers/Rossouw, du Plessis, de Villiers/Miller, Behardien, McLaren, Parnell/Peterson, Abbott/Parnell, Tahir/Steyn, Tahir/Morkel.

Verdict

I think that this series will be very close, as both sides have got some really great players. I think that the South Africans should come out on top due to their batting but it would take a lot to write off this Australian side completely.