|Ricky Ponting at a practice session in Gros Islet. (AP)
Gros Islet: South Africa will have to shed their burden of history and perform out of their skin to halt the Australians’ unstoppable march in the second semi-final of the World Cup here Wednesday. Emotions, too, will run high in this epic clash.
South Africa had grabbed the No. 1 ranking from the Australians last month; chased down 434 at the Wanderers last year and will be now on a Mission Impossible to stop Australia’s winning run of 26 matches.
But history is against the Proteas. They have twice reached the semi-finals of the World Cup before but were unlucky to lose on both occasions, rather dramatically.
“The 1999 game was a game in history. It doesn’t get mentioned much within the set-up,” South African captain Graeme Smith said.
“We don’t come into the semi-final tensed in any way. We seem to have got through a lot of those tentative times.”
Australia’s vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, however, would differ. “They will be even more determined given what seems to be a bit of a curse at World Cup. I am not so sure (if they are not haunted by previous failures).”
South Africa have a psychologist in their entourage but Smith said there had been no special sessions to prepare for Australia.
“All the guys are the most confident I’ve seen them throughout the tournament and that bodes well,” he said. “It is just about going out there and enjoying and playing some good cricket.”
Smith said the key would be taking early wickets because the Australian batting line-up ran deep.
“Hayden especially upfront has been phenomenal throughout. We will look at those things and come up with a game plan on how we can get into the middle order as quick as we can,” he said.
“If you get in and get wickets upfront, it does certainly curb a lot of their attacking players.”
Australia had the upper hand in six of their past 10 games against South Africa, including the pummelling they handed over to the Proteas in their group match in the World Cup.
But it was not drubbing all the way in the encounter at St Kitts. South Africa, chasing a mammoth 377, were on their way to make a match of it.
A belligerent Smith (74) and AB de Villiers (92) gave South Africa a rollicking start but then lost their way in the middle.
Gilchrist believes the equation in the semi-final would be different.
“They’ve probably not quite dominated all the teams like many would have expected, but they have done enough to get to a World Cup semis and that’s all you set out to do at the start of the tournament,” said Gilchrist.
South Africa are planning though to shield Shaun Pollock from the hammering he received at the hands of Matthew Hayden and Gilchrist in the St Kitts game.
Pollock conceded 83 runs from his 10 overs while Hayden raced to the fastest century ever in the World Cup history in a mere 66 balls. Proteas are now planning to give Pollock the new ball but remove him off the attack as soon as Hayden goes after him.
“We have a plan with (Pollock). I suspect he will take the new ball, but if there’s nothing happening, we will probably whip him off early and go for the pace of (Andre) Nel. It is something we learnt from the last game,” Mickey Arthur said.
Smith is confident that the sprained left knee he suffered after practice in St Lucia would not stop him from leading the side Wednesday.
Australia (likely): Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey, Shane Watson, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Tait, Brad Hogg and Nathan Bracken.
South Africa (likely): Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Ashwell Prince, Justin Kemp, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Andre Nel, Makhyana Ntini and Andrew Hall.
Umpires: Aleem Dar and Steve Bucknor. TV: Billy Bowden.
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe.
Match starts: 7 pm (IST)
ROAD TO semis
(Played 9, Won 9)
Bt Scotland by 203 runs (Aus 334/6; Sco 131/9), Basseterre, March 14
Bt The Netherlands by 229 runs (Aus 358/5; Ned 129), Basseterre, March 18
Bt South Africa by 83 runs (Aus 377/6; SA 294), Basseterre, March 24
Bt West Indies by 103 runs (Aus 322/6; WI 219), St John’s, March 27
Bt Bangladesh by 10 wkts (Ban 104/6; Aus 106/0), St John’s, March 31
Bt England by 7 wkts (Eng 247; Aus 248/3), St John’s, April 8
Bt Ireland by 9 wkts (Ire 91; Aus 92/1), Bridgetown, April 13
Bt Sri Lanka by 7 wkts (SL 226; Aus 232/3), St George’s, April 16
Bt New Zealand by 215 runs (Aus 348/6; NZ 133), St George’s, April 20
(Played 9, Won 6, Lost 3)
Bt The Netherlands by 221 runs (SA 353/3; Ned 132/9), Basseterre, March 16
Bt Scotland by 7 wkts (Sco 186/8; SA 188/3), Basseterre, March 20
Lost to Australia by 83 runs (Aus 377/6; SA 294), Basseterre, March 24
Bt Sri Lanka by 1 wkt (SL 209; SA 212/9), Georgetown, March 28
Bt Ireland by 7 wkts (Ire 152/8; SA 165/3(,Georgetown, April 3
Lost to Bangladesh by 67 runs (Ban 251/8; SA 184), Georgetown, April 7
Bt West Indies by 67 runs (SA 356/4; WI 289/9), St George’s, April 10
Lost to New Zealand by 5 wkts (SA 193/7; NZ 196/5), St George’s, April 14
Bt England by 9 wkts (Eng 154; SA 157/1), Bridgetown, April 17
Compiled by Mohandas Menon