Although it hurts to see Pakistan out of the 2015 World Cup, the fact of the matter, which has to be acknowledged, is that the four teams that have played the best cricket in this World Cup are in the semi-finals. They are also the four top rated teams in the current ICC ODI Rankings and thus I do not think any honest observer can seriously contest their right to be where they are.
New Zealand and South Africa will be playing in the first semi-final and whichever teams gets through will be playing in a World Cup final for the first time. For New Zealand the semi-final is on home ground and if conditions support seam bowling, Boult and Southee could play a big part in this clash. The New Zealand batting too has been clicking on all cylinders with Guptill’s amazing effort against the West Indies in the quarter-finals being a reminder for one and all just what this line-up can produce. In the early stages of the tournament it was only Brendon McCullum that other teams thought they had to fear but now that all the top New Zealand batsmen have been performing, this is not going to be an easy unit to beat.
For that matter, the South Africans are no pushovers either. Their batting does rely heavily on Amla and de Villiers but they have the advantage of fielding some of the best fast bowlers in the world. However, South Africa have so far played with only four specialist bowlers while Duminy and de Villiers himself have struggled to make up the quota of the fifth bowler and that has been one of the few chinks in the South African armour.
They might be well advised to go in with a fifth specialist bowler but after having played so many matches without one, they would perhaps be reluctant to change their combination at this advanced stage of the tournament.
Similarly, Australia and India are also two well balanced sides. The Indians have been in Australia for almost five months now and must be thoroughly used to the conditions there. So that advantage that Australia enjoyed during their series against India and in the tri-series tournament would stand largely nullified. But Australia have real pace in their lineup and that has always unsettled Indian batsmen, although there is no doubt that they are of top quality. On the other hand, if there is anything in the wicket to give spinners even the slightest assistance, rest assured that the Indian spinners will cause problems for the Australian batting line-up which is now not quite as formidable as it used to be once upon a time. Spin is one aspect of the game in which India enjoys a clear advantage over Australia and the Indian spinners could pose a few problems for the Australians if they are supported by their fielders. For that matter, India’s fielding has also improved vastly and the gap between the teams in this department of the game is now not even nearly as wide as it used to be.
Both these matches are too close to call and it will be some little factor, like a blinder of a catch or a remarkable run out, that could swing the game one way or the other. For those who are interested in seeing good cricket, irrespective of who is playing it, both these games promise a lot of entertainment.