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SA wary of threat from fearless Ireland

Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2007, 6:16 [IST]
 
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Georgetown (Guyana):For Ireland, the dream run still continues despite their 48-run defeat against England in their first Super Eight encounter, and South Africa are very well aware that the Irish will be a tough nut to crack when they face them on Tuesday.

South Africa, somehow, managed to win their first game against Sri Lanka after the Malinga scare. But Ireland despite their loss, made sure that their neighbour were given a run for their money and so Proteas skipper Graeme Smith, whose side has just been officially crowned the top ODI team in the World, is in no mood to take the Irish lightly as the 26-year-old left-hander hails them to be better organised than the other minnow Bangladesh.

''We have not played against them but their reputation as tough opponents seems to be growing. They are emerging as not only a very good time but a good unit,'' Smith said.

The skipper was also aware about his team's middle order batting slump and to add to it Shaun Pollock's miserable form with the ball in the World Cup.

After two batting collapses against Australia and Sri Lanka, Herschelle Gibbs has urged the middle-order batsmen to build on the solid starts provided by the top order.

''The guys are firing up front and it would be good for our middle order to fire as well,'' Gibbs told newspersons.

''In order to win a tournament like this you need a big team effort and along with that team effort comes individual performances and the guys are good enough to turn it all around in one game,'' he added.

Chasing 378 for victory in their final Group A match against Australia, South Africa were on course at 220 for one in the 32nd over, but they were eventually dismissed for 294. It got worse in the Super Eights match against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.

South Africa needed only five runs off 31 balls with five wickets in hand but Lasith Malinga took four wickets in four balls and it was left to Robin Peterson to edge South Africa home with a wicket to spare.

''We learnt the lesson of not completing the innings with the same intensity with which we started it,'' Gibbs said.

''That's what happens when you drop the intensity, it takes four good balls to turn the game on its head. It was an interesting experience and very, very nice to come away with a win. But it was a big lesson for all the batsmen who batted at the end.'' ''We know they are a dangerous team and we know you can't take anything for granted,'' Gibbs said about Ireland.

''If you disrespect your opponents you will come short. The games are hotting up now. It's a big time in the tournament and we can't relax.'' For Ireland, much of their fortunes will revolve around Jeremey Bray and Neol O'brien.

Both of them have been on fine nick and of the two O'Brien had two half centuries with 63 coming against England. It was also he who played the stunning innings of 72 which knocked off Pakistan out of the World Cup.

''If we believe in ourselves, we can beat anybody and we nearly proved that against England,'' said captain Trenth Johnston.

Selected as much for his captaincy as of his bowling, Johnston has been an inspiration for Ireland by his determination never to give up. He rarely conceded more than four-runs-per-over and against Pakistan took the key wicket of Mohammad Yousuf.

His athletic, diving catch to remove Kamran Akmal highlighted the excellence of Ireland's out fielding in general, but moreover a man able to lead from the front.

Spotlight on Pollock, Kallis: South African stalwarts Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis will be under the spotlight on Tuesday's game against Ireland.

The pair have been among the premier all-rounders in the game for more than a decade but some patchy performances at the World Cup have raised questions about their roles in the South African team.

Kallis, 31, frittered away a potentially winning position against Australia in Basseterre, St Kitts on March 24 when he scored a slow 48.

In the same match Pollock, 33, conceded 83 runs in 10 overs without a wicket, his worst return in a one-day international.

Kallis redeemed himself with a match-winning 86 in South Africa's one-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Georgetown, Guyana on Wednesday.

Pollock, however, went for 46 runs in the eight overs he bowled without reward.South African coach Mickey Arthur backed both players on the eve of the game against the Irish.

Teams who play with confidence will target the opposition's strength and teams have done that against Shaun successfully," Arthur told a news conference on Monday.

"But he's an unbelievable performer and after two games in which he has been hit a little bit he's going to come back hard."

Arthur said Pollock would continue to take the new ball for South Africa.

"We back him in that role. He's done a superb job for South Africa for so long and it would be too drastic a step at this stage."

Arthur said Kallis's problems had been ironed out.

"He got it wrong (against Australia), we debriefed, we discussed it," Arthur said. "He is going to get it wrong once in a while but his response was unbelievable and he virtually batted us to victory against Sri Lanka."

South Africa are expected to win on Tuesday but when the teams met in a warm-up match in St Augustine, Trinidad on March 5, Ireland reduced the favourites to 91 for eight, and South Africa's winning margin of 35 runs was unconvincing.

"We won the toss and on a wicket that was damp and decided to bat, simply because we were playing all our batsmen," Arthur said.

"They bowled very well and got balls in the right area and we were in a little bit of trouble.

Squads:

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

Ireland: Trent Johnston (capt), Kyle McCallan, Andre Botha, Jeremy Bray, Kenneth Carroll, Peter Gillespie, Dave Langford-Smith, John Mooney, Paul Mooney, Eoin Morgan, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien (wk), William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin and Andrew White. Coach: Andrew Birrell.

Agencies

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