October 23, 2019
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    Who will be the World Cup's newest first-time finalist?

    March 23, 2015

    ICC Cricket World Cup, 1st Semi-Final: New Zealand v South Africa at Auckland, Mar 24, 2015

     

    Nine World Cup semi-finals, zero World Cup finals. New Zealand and South Africa are no strangers to the last four, but neither has ever experienced the ultimate shoot-out. That will change for one of the teams as Melbourne beckons for the winner.

     

    Six months ago if you had asked for a prediction of this fixture it is likely that South Africa would have been favoured. Now the hosts can rightly be considered the smart money. At the very least, it is the too-close-to-call match-up that the contests should be at this stage of the tournament. The four best teams are in the semi-finals.

     

    New Zealand are on the most glorious of runs: nine ODI wins and counting. Each match of this tournament has thrown up new heroes: Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson, Tim Southee, Kane Williamson, Daniel Vettori and, latterly, Martin Guptill can be known as the Super Six, while they have had more than a little help from their team-mates.

     

    South Africa's tournament has not been anywhere near as seamless with the notable group-stage defeats against India and Pakistan, the latter of those at Eden Park. However, their overwhelming performance in the quarter-final against Sri Lanka - their first World Cup knockout victory - has ensured that, at least for a short while, AB de Villiers can experience something his predecessors have not. Winning a crunch game.

     

    But now comes another one. The teams met in the knockout stages four years ago - the quarter-final - where New Zealand won by 49 runs in Dhaka and the contest boiled over when de Villiers was run out. The feats in Sydney will not mean a jot if they cannot progress further.

     

    The build-up to this match has been starkly different for each side. South Africa's quarter-final was the first to be played which has given them time to settle back into Auckland, so much so that they opted not to train on Monday - they did the same the day before the Sri Lanka match. New Zealand have played, travelled, prepared and must now play again. It is far removed from the week-long build-ups that have almost become agonising during the second half of their group campaign.

     

    As well as being the last match for either side at the tournament, this will also be New Zealand's last match as a host nation. The country has staged a wonderful event. They deserve a memorable encounter with which to sign-off.

     

    New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum (capt), 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Matt Henry/Kyle Mills, 11 Trent Boult

     

    South Africa (probable) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 Rilee Rossouw, 6 David Miller, 7 JP Duminy, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Vernon Philander/Kyle Abbott, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

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