Spirited Proteas upbeat against clinical Aussies

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Beausejour (St Lucia):As South Africa seek nothing but revenge in the second semi-finals here on Wednesday, the 'Law of Averages' seems to be the only factor that might spoil Ricky Ponting and Co's dreams of claiming the third World Cup in a row.

The stadium and the island is quiet and beautiful, so are the people here, but inside the ground, where both Australia and South Africa are practicing, nothing is quite so beautiful.

After the thumping victory over England in their last Super Eight match, Proteas looked a side determined to lift the coveted trophy for the very first time. But the Aussies have been playing unbelievable cricket throughout the tournament and the opposition are still grappling to find a chink in the Australian's armour.

Both sides are in ominous form and besides the professional smiles at one another, there is no love lost between them.

Underneath the smiles, lies a steely yet nervous mind that goes with playing a World Cup semi-final.

On paper South Africa look the only team amongst the remaining three semi-finalists who could stop the Aussie juggernaut.

However, it will take out-of-the-ordinary stuff in all departments if they are to beat a side that has mercilessly defeated one and all with equal elan in the Group and then the Super Eight stage.

But the urge to take revenge can turn a sane outfit into a team possessed. They Proteas have still not forgotten the 1999 World Cup, where the semi-final clash against Australia ended in a tie and South Africa could not enter the final.

The last World Cup in 2003, South Africa erred in calculating the winning score in a rain-affected match decided by Duckworth Lewis method. They tied Sri Lanka's score of 229 runs when they needed 230 runs.

''We are ready. We are ready for any attack. We have now reached such a stage that we can not only absorb any situation but we can actually come out of that,'' said Ricky Ponting in the customary pre-match press conference.

He has reasons to be confident. Last time Australia was defeated in the World Cup match was eight years ago when Pakistan did the near impossible. Since then, not only every single match was won by Ponting's man but every one of those wins were dominating.

''With everyone in such great form, I have nothing much to say.

Australia is in autopilot. Everyone knows what to do,'' says a relaxed looking Ponting. He has mighty Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist scoring heavily upfront. Ponting himself is in terrific form and even the Clarkes, Husseys, Watsons and Symonds steps in when the situation demands.

''Hayden is in the form of his life. He has worked very hard and he is dragging a couple of us with him,'' Ponting said, issuing another warning to the rivals - ''our best is yet to come.''

''We'd like to think that we are nowhere near playing our best cricket just yet. I've been happy with what we have done so far and I'm not surprised at all by what we've done,'' said the Australian captain.

''I know none of the individual players in our side are surprised by what they have done. Matthew Hayden has had a great World Cup, Clarke has been terrific so far and Shaun Tait has been very good.

Until we get to the stage where some of our individual players are surprising themselves, or surprising me, then we have not played our best cricket yet,'' the 'Punter' added.

This may be too arrogant for some, but not for the hundreds of Australian fans who have descended since Monday in the small island to boost the team morale.

But the 'Law of Average' might catch up with the Kangaroos. The way Graeme Smith's men destroyed England the other day was noticed by everyone and it was actually a warning to Ricky Ponting.

The South Africa skipper has warned that Australia's unbeaten record in the World Cup will count for nothing.

''We lost to them in the group stages. It was a gettable total and we were on course till AB de Villerrs got out. Anyway, we have strategies to stop Hayden. Semi-final is a new game and a new day,'' said Smith.

''Unfortunately they can not bully us. Australia has been doing that with many other teams and it has been working in their favour.

But we know how to stop them. Hopefully our top order will click and then there is a match at hand,'' said Smith.

He also informed that his sore knee had healed now but did not disclose whether Makhaya Ntini would play in Wednesday's match or not.

There are strong indications that last match's star Andrew Hall, who swept away England with a deadly five-wicket haul, will be preferred over Ntini.

South Africa also boasts of a strong batting line up like Australia and each of them till Pollock are destructive on their days. However, they have been exposed against spinners when they lost to Bangladesh in the Super Eights.

That is where Ponting wants to score as he has Brad Hogg in his side to spin a web around the South African batsmen.

Irrespective of the result, Wednesday's tie promises to be a mouth-watering contest between the two best sides in international cricket.


Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait and Shane Watson. Coach: John Buchanan.

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.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak), Steve Bucknor (WI) and Third Umpire: Billy Bowden (NZ).

Match Referee: Jeff Crowe (NZ).


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