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23 March 201522:16 By Manoj Narayan

New Zealand v South Africa – World Cup rivalry

New Zealand has the numerical edge, winning four of six previous World Cup matches between the teams, but anything could happen this time

New Zealand v South Africa – World Cup rivalry - Cricket News

It's a 50-50 toss-up between the two teams this time around.

“Bielsa to Barca? It terrifies me. Some things offer such a possibility of beauty they should be left as immaculate potential.” That’s how Jonathan Wilson, the sports writer, described the matter, on Twitter, when rumours arose a couple of years ago that Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentine coach, was in line to replace Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

Those words can be used to describe the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final between New Zealand and South Africa on Wednesday (March 24) in Auckland as well. The possibilities are endless. Two teams high on morale and hungry for silverware, filled with strong characters and match-winners, both going head to head on the global platform. Mano-e-mano. Immaculate potential.

The two sides have clashed in previous World Cups. New Zealand has fared better in those exchanges, winning four out of six matches, but these clashes were filled with fine individual performances, shows of team spirit and much else. A look back at their previous clashes, while by no means a pointer to what will transpire in Auckland on Tuesday, is sure to whet one’s appetite.

Match 1: New Zealand v South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland in ICC Cricket World Cup 1992
The last time these two sides met in Auckland, it was New Zealand who emerged victorious, and quite comfortably at that. South Africa won the toss and chose to bat, but never really got going. On a slow pitch, Dipak Patel, the off-spinner, ran riot, conceding just 13 runs in his first seven overs. South Africa was reduced to 29 for 3 before a 79-run stand for the fourth wicket between David Richardson and Peter Kirsten, who ended on a resilient 129-ball 90, helped it stay afloat. South Africa posted 190 for 7, but that wasn’t too challenging for the New Zealand top order. A 114-run opening stand between Mark Greatbatch (68) and Rod Latham (60) set the base, and despite the dismissal of Ian Smith for 19, New Zealand strolled to victory with seven wickets and 93 balls to spare.

Match 2: New Zealand v South Africa at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad in ICC Cricket World Cup 1996
In its first World Cup in 1992, South Africa had made a mark with its fielding. If anything, it set new standards in this clash. New Zealand, choosing to bat, was restricted to 177 for 9, an innings comprising three run-outs. Stephen Fleming was its top-scorer with a 79-ball 33, with the menacing paceman, Allan Donald, running through the line-up with a fine 3 for 34 in ten overs.

It was a seemingly easy chase, but South Africa was made to work hard for its victory. Hansie Cronje’s 64-ball 78 propelled it past the finish line to a five-wicket victory.

Match 3: New Zealand v South Africa at Edgbaston in Birmingham in ICC Cricket World Cup 1999

South Africa made it a second consecutive World Cup victory over New Zealand, posting its highest total up till that point in the tournament.

Choosing to bat in the Super Six clash, Gary Kirsten (82) and Herschelle Gibbs (91) put on a quick 176 for the opening wicket, allying concerns in the top order. Then, an unbeaten 36-ball 53 from Jacques Kallis and a 22-ball 39 from Hansie Cronje helped it post 287 for 5.

In response, New Zealand couldn’t handle the heat of the fiery South African attack. It lost Matt Horne and Nathan Astle early to be reduced to 34 for 2, and never really recovered. Stephen Fleming and Craig McMillan launched a resistance, putting on 59 for the third wicket, but the stand was broken by Cronje, and regular wickets thereafter meant it ended at 213 at 8 after 50 overs for a 74-run loss.

Match 4: South Africa v New Zealand at Wanderers in Johannesburg in ICC Cricket World Cup 2003

When a top-order batsman scores 143 and the team, possessing an attack comprising Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini and Jacques Kallis puts up 306, you expect it to secure victory. Unfortunately for South Africa, they found Stephen Fleming in imperious form. That coupled with a power-failure and a couple of rain breaks meant they ended up on the losing side on the Duckworth-Lewis method.

Herschelle Gibbs was exuberant and his 141-ball 143 was built on middling scores by the rest of the batsmen, South Africa ending on 306 for 6. If Gibbs was flamboyant, Fleming was graceful. Rain’s interruption meant the target was revised and New Zealand needed 44 more to win in eight and a half overs.

Fleming carried on and took New Zealand across the finish line for a nine-wicket victory by the D/L Method. He ended with a 132-ball 134, following partnerships of 89 and 140* with Craig McMillan (25) and Nathan Astle (54). Fleming’s knock comprised 21 fours, and according to the Wisden Almanack, he “played the innings of his life” – Boucher letting him off on 53 proved costly, to say the least.

Match 5: New Zealand v South Africa at National Cricket Stadium in Grenada in ICC Cricket World Cup 2007

A heart-twisting, nerve-wracking encounter in the Super Eights ended in favour of New Zealand in Grenada, and in doing so, it managed to seal a semi-final spot in the 2007 World Cup.

South Africa, having been put in, was reduced to 3 for 2, but recovered through Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs, who put on 49 for the third wicket. Kallis was sent back for a 54-ball 22, but Gibbs carried on with Ashwell Prince for company, putting up a crucial 76 for the fourth. Craig McMillan then had all of Gibbs, Prince and Mark Boucher dismissed in fairly quick succession, taking the sting out of South Africa’s batsmen, who eventually put up 193 for 7.

If New Zealand thought it had an easy chase, it was made to think again. The South African attack, comprising Sean Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel, never allowed the New Zealand batsmen to settle. Eventually, the batsmen steered clear of anything risky, with Scott Styris playing the steadying hand, putting on 78 and 56 with Stephen Fleming and McMillan for the third and fourth wickets to propel the chase. It took New Zealand to the doorsteps of victory, and it eventually crossed the line, despite the late wicket of Jacob Oram.

Match 6: New Zealand v South Africa at Sher-E-Bangla Stadium in Dhaka in ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

A knockout encounter, and South Africa imploded in the most calamitous manner, allowing New Zealand to seal a semi-final spot yet again. But it made for a fascinating match.

New Zealand put up 221 for 8 after opting to bat, with Jesse Ryder scoring a 121-ball 83. Ryder’s half-century and his 114-run stand with Ross Taylor (43) for the third wicket kept South Africa’s attack, comprising the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, well at bay.

South Africa’s chase of 222 got off to a seemingly perfect start, with Jacques Kallis leading the charge. He had put up a 75-ball 47 when he was dismissed, but even at that point, South Africa was looking good for victory at 108 for 3. JP Duminy followed suit thereafter, and the slide turned to a full-fledged implosion that resulted in its knockout from the tournament. It was bowled out for 172 in 43.2 overs, New Zealand winning by 49 runs.

What to Expect in #cwc2015

A winner can’t be picked. Both teams have power-packed units and head into the semi-final clash on the back of convincing victories in the quarterfinals. Playing at home could play to New Zealand’s advantage, but you can never discount a line-up that comprises the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn. Steyn, in particular, is due a match-winning performance in the 2015 World Cup, and he is one of those characters who come good when the team needs him most. This could go either way.