New Zealand and South Africa both go into their semi-final clash against each other at Auckland on a high. South Africa handed over a thrashing to Sri Lanka in an utterly professional display while New Zealand had it all very easy against West Indies thanks to Martin Guptill's record breaking ton. Traditionally, South Africa have held a significant advantage over the Kiwis in international cricket, but this New Zealand side is on a roll. They are undefeated, and will have the home advantage as well with semi-final being played at Auckland. South Africa on the other hand would be hopeful of adding to their knockout tally.
Both New Zealand and South Africa haven't progressed beyond the semi-finals in the World Cup till date. So whoever wins on Tuesday, history will be created for the respective World Cup nation. New Zealand have made it to the last four on most occasions, but the lack of talent has been the undoing on each occasion. Whoever wins this time, New Zealand won't lose for lack of match-winners. They have plenty, especially under the given conditions. Brendon McCullum would be keen to get back among the runs after a couple of low scores while the Kiwis will be pleased with the splendid return to form of Martin Guptill.
A great start for New Zealand would be one of their keys to success, but they have men who can take charge in the middle and lower order as well. Kane Williamson has looked in very good touch although he hasn't made all his starts count. The semi-final would be a great occasion for him to put his hand up. Veteran Ross Taylor is yet to regain form, but he has spent a lot of time at the crease in the last two games. Hopefully, it will help his cause. The likes of Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi are also in form. Like their batting, New Zealand's bowling too is in great shape. Trent Boult is leading the list of wicket-takers with 19, while Tim Southee and Daniel Vettori have turned in match-winning performances too.
For South Africa, the semi-final will be a massive challenge. They have always struggled at this stage of the tournament; the win against Sri Lanka was their first knockout triumph ever in the World Cup. They would know at the back of their minds that the Kiwis had upset them in the quarters last time. At the same time, South Africa would take a lot of confidence from the manner in which they outdid the Lankans. Their bowling was superb on the day. Kyle Abbott, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel combined to cripple the Lankans early on and the spinners Imran Tahir and JP Duminy chipped in with a brilliant effort as well. Their task will be tougher against an in-form Kiwi line-up.
South Africa's batting has been a bit disappointing at times, thanks to their overreliance on skipper AB de Villiers. But, the return to form of Quinton de Kock in the quarters against Sri Lanka would be a massive boost for the Proteas. Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis have been among the runs as well, though most of them came earlier in the tournament. South Africa would be looking forward to runs from them on the big day. Lower down the order, Duminy and David Miller will need to fire if they are needed to bat. After kicking off the World Cup with hundreds, they haven't been consistent. With both sides evenly matches, a close contest can be a expected at Auckland.
--By A Cricket Analyst