March Madness . . . Cricket Style!

We have now reached the semi-final stage of the cricket World Cup, and as some of our readers may remember, we predicted the final four teams on Day 2: India, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. These teams were so much better than the rest that the prediction wasn’t a tough one. However, aside from home-team advantage for Australia and New Zealand, it’s now impossible to say with any degree of certainty who will win their semi-finals. Australia play India in Sydney on March 26th, and we’ll have plenty of opportunity to assess that clash of the titans. However, New Zealand play South Africa tonight/tomorrow in Auckland. This, too, promises to be a match of power-hitting and fiery pace-bowling, leavened with the containment and experience of Daniel Vettori’s off-spin and Imran Tahir’s passionate and unpredictable leg-spin.

It’s hard to over-estimate just how prepared New Zealand are for this game. After simmering gentlybefore the series, Martin Guptill came to a furious boil against the West Indies, scoring the second-highest one-day total ever (237 not out)—and playing nary a false shot or slog. With Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum—who doesn’t so much cook at the crease but explode like popcorn—at his side, the South Africans will worry if the pair aren’t back in the pavilion by the end of the fifth over. The opening pair are too dangerous, given what comes behind, to be still at the wicket after 30 balls.

Meanwhile, the Kiwis will be hoping that Quentin de Kock’s return to form is only temporary, that Hashim Amla momentarily forgets that he’s the classiest batsman in world cricket, that A. B. de Villiers fails to appreciate that he’s the best batsman on the planet, and that David Miller and Faf du Plessis hold the willow upside down (even then, the ball will probably cross the rope). Even if either side’s top order fails, with Tim Southee and Vernon Philander coming in at number 9 for New Zealand and South Africa respectively, it hardly matters. Each side has incredible depth.

We expect to see Dale Steyn’s veins and eyes to bulge; we expect Trent Boult’s fiendish yorkers to reach 145 kph; and we expect this one to go down to the wire. Both sides are fit, full of phenomenal fielders, and have everything to prove. It’s gonna be a feast and we urge you to tuck in.

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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