Proteas all set to break Cup jinx

Published: Monday, March 5, 2007, 20:29 [IST]
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Although South Africa are chokers on big stage and their record in the previous four World Cup tournaments is enough to suffice this point, but their recent form suggests they will again be major contenders in the forthcoming World Cup in Caribbean Isles.

But first they have to play world champions Australia in Basseterre, St Kitts on March 24 in a group match which will decide which team takes two points through to the second round.

"They're going to have to try and peak in the crucial Group tie against the Aussies, and from there it's a case of consistency, consistency, consistency, said Kepler Wessels, who played for Aussies in 1983 World Cup before leading Proteas' in their first World Cup appearance in 1991-92.

"But that game will sum up how far South Africa go in the tournament," he added.

South Africans have suffered dramatic exits in most of their World Cup appearances, which started in 1992 after the end of the country's isolation from international sport because of their apartheid (racial separation) policy.

That year, South Africa reached the semi-finals against England in Sydney only to be thwarted by the ridiculous rain rules that set the out-of-the-world target of 21 runs off one ball.

Four years later in Karachi, South African dreams was undone by Windies southpaw Brian Lara's solo effort in the quarterfinals.

In 1999 in Birmingham, Lance Klusener and Allan Donald contrived one of the most memorable runouts in cricket history to tie the match and end South Africa's semi-final hopes against Australia.

Ignominy followed on home soil in 2003, when the South Africans messed up with Duckworth-Lewis rules in a first-round match against Sri Lanka. The result was another tie, which shattered South African hopes of winning World Cup in home turf.

"In 1992, I think we were dead unlucky," said Wessels, who captained South Africa in that tournament. "In '96 South Africa were definitely the best team at the tournament, but they made tactical errors. The '99 thing was just a moment of madness."

Wessels said he was confident that South Africa was a good bet to reach the final in Bridgetown, Barbados on April 28.

"I think we have a real chance this time," Wessels said. "If conditions are even slightly seamer-friendly we won't be beaten."

However, Wessels felt the South Africans were over-reliant on veteran bowler Shaun Pollock and also that they were predictable.

"It's easy to plan to play against them, but they're not easy to beat," he said.

Wessels also felt much depended on the form of captain and opening batsman Graeme Smith.

"If Smith fires and plays well with (fellow opener) AB de Villiers, South Africa will be difficult to stop," Wessels said.

"The fact that they bat all the way down to Andrew Hall at number eight will also be an important factor."

Players to watch: Graeme Smith, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs

Squad: Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher (wk), AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince and Roger Telemachus. Mickey Arthur (coach).

SA Factfile:

World Cup record: 1992 - semi-finalists; 1996 - quarter-finalists; 1999 - semi finalists; 2003 - first round.

Overall playing record: Played: 371, Won: 228, Lost: 127, Tied: 5, No result: 11.

Highest innings total: 438-9 v Australia, Johannesburg, 2006.

Lowest innings total: 69 v Australia, Sydney, 1993.

Highest individual score: Gary Kirsten (188*) Vs UAE in 1996 World Cup

Leading run-scorer: Jacques Kallis (8401)

Best bowling: Makhaya Ntini (6 for 22) Vs Australia, Cape Town, 2006.

Leading wicket-taker: Shaun Pollock (367).

Highest partnership: Gibbs&Gary Kirsten (235, Ist wkt) v India, Kochi, 2000.

Most catches (fieldsman): Jonty Rhodes (105)

Most dismissals (wk): Mark Boucher (345)

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