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Kiwis out to conquer 'chokers' Published: 24 March 2011

New Zealand will be aiming to capitalise on South Africa's nerves as the Proteas seek to shake off their 'chokers' tag in the third ICC World Cup quarter-final.

Graeme Smith's Proteas are the favourites to overcome the Black Caps in Mirpur to set up a semi-final clash with either England or Sri Lanka.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who took 12 wickets at just 9.83 in their opening four matches, could return for the Proteas after recovering from a fractured thumb.

New Zealand will have skipper Daniel Vettori back in the side after he damaged his knee against Pakistan earlier in the tournament.

The all-rounder is vital to his side’s chances and has declared himself fit for the match, though he will play with precautionary strapping on his knee.

Handle expectations

South Africa were impressive in the group stages, finishing on top of group B with only one defeat - a narrow six-run loss to England.

Michael Holding has backed them as the best equipped side to lift the trophy despite their poor record at ICC tournaments.

They entered the competition with a reputation as a strong batting side that lacked the spin bowlers to excel in the sub-continent.

The naturalisation of Pakistan-born journeyman Tahir has added an extra dimension to an attack which also includes quicks Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Robin Petersen has proved another trump card for Smith, taking 14 wickets at 13.50 with his off breaks.

South Africa’s one weakness appears to lie in the lower order, where the possible return of Tahir - most likely in place of Morne van Wyk - makes their tail look fairly long.

Smith’s form at the top of the order is another concern but a top six featuring Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis is likely to cause headaches for any opposing captain.

Hit or miss

For New Zealand, their erratic batting is the undoubted key to progressing in the competition.

Their two defeats so far, to Australia and Sri Lanka, have seen the batsmen struggle to totals of 206 and 153 respectively.

They wracked up 302 in a superb 110-run win over Pakistan but it took a remarkable piece of acceleration from former MCC Young Cricketer Ross Taylor which inspired the Kiwi’s to add 100 runs from the last six overs.

The likes of Brendon McCullum, Taylor and Jesse Ryder can play match-winning knocks and Vettori will hope at least one of that talented trio can put in a special performance.

As ever, the Black Caps are a team who enjoy the underdog tag with world class players few and far between in their line-up.

But their doggedness, excellent fielding and unwavering spirit makes up for many of their weaknesses, while the return of Vettori gives them one of the better spin options in the competition.

Key battle - Vettori v De Villiers

Vettori will be charged with keeping South Africa's middle order quiet while De Villiers has been the best Proteas batsman so far and is an excellent player of spin.

The Kiwi’s know wickets are the key to keeping South Africa down to a managable total with a long tail waiting to be exposed.

Verdict

On paper South Africa should have far too much for the Kiwi’s in every department.

The return of Tahir gives them another quality attacking option and New Zealand’s batting has looked frail against quality spin this tournament.

History points to New Zealand over performing at World Cup’s though while South Africa’s ‘chokers’ tag remains hanging, albatross like, around their necks.


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