MUMBAI, (Reuters) – South Africa bring an added dimension to their bowling accompanied by a new generation who reject any suggestion that they fold under pressure to the World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand in Dhaka yesterday.
While the South Africans’ all-round prowess in the group stages has deservedly earned them the title of tournament favourites, they are still forced to counter accusations that they choke when the going gets tough.
Faf du Plessis, a member of the spin attack who have performed so impressively at the tournament, told reporters this week that his team’s victory over India in Nagpur showed the calibre of the current side.
“I, myself, don’t really know too much about the chokers’ tag,” he said. “I know it’s a thing that’s been dragged along with South Africa. But I just see it as you either win or you lose a game.
“We proved to those people who thought we were chokers wrong in that game against India because that was as high a pressure situation as you can get and we pulled it through.”
Du Plessis’ leg-spin has been used sparingly in India with Johan Botha, Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir bearing the brunt of the burden in an attack which for once in South African history is not mainly dependent on pace.
“Tahir has brought us a lot of wickets in the tournament and so has Robin,” said off-spinner Botha, who added he was happy to play a holding role.
“We have world class seamers and I think they have done their job so far in the tournament. Now we do have a really good bowling attack.”
South Africa meet a New Zealand team who struggled against the Sri Lankan spinners in the group stages after losing four one-day internationals in Bangladesh last year.
Ross Taylor, their best player of spin, took the Pakistan bowling apart in the win which propelled the Kiwis to the knockout stages while Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder can be equally destructive.
The problem with the current New Zealand batting line-up is a lack of consistency although McCullum was upbeat at the prospect of meeting South Africa.
“To play South Africa in those conditions is not a bad draw at all,” he said.
“They obviously prefer a little more pace and bounce in their wickets. Dhaka won’t quite give them that and I’m sure they’ll be a little disappointed.”
New Zealand will still need everything to go their way on Friday against a team who are superior in both batting and bowling.
If they are to remain competitive captain Daniel Vettori, their best all-round player, will need to play a full part after missing two games following a knee injury in the win over Pakistan. There is also an injury doubt over the Kiwi’s most experienced pace bowler Kyle Mills who sat out the loss to Sri Lanka because of a thigh muscle injury.