Batsmen hold the key for Windies against South Africa
Jaipur -- For defending champions West Indies it will be chance to resurrect their past glory when they take on South Africa in the second semi-final of the Champions Trophy here Thursday.
West Indies' journey to the last four of this biennial tournament has been a long one compared to other teams, as they had to play the qualifying round as well. By having to play the qualifiers did disappoint Brian Lara's team, but they made the most out of it in the true Caribbean spirit.
West Indies emerged as the second-best team behind Sri Lanka in the qualifying round, and then they stunned Australia with a sensational 10-run win in Mumbai and defeated India by three wickets in Ahmedabad.
Although they lost to England at the same venue West Indies finished second to Australia in Group A on net run rate, they progressed to the semi-finals to set up a clash with South Africa.
Flamboyant opener Chris Gayle said the loss to England was not a setback.
"It was not a major setback for us. Obviously, we wanted to win every match but unfortunately few of England players played good innings and that sealed the fate of the match."
"We have played here earlier and we know what to expect from the wicket. However, South Africa have played good cricket in the past two games. They were very impressive. They will come very hard at us. We have to back ourselves and get the job done."
The Proteas, on the other hand, are not worried at facing the West Indians.
"We have confidence in ourselves. We can't worry about the opposition. We worry about ourselves, about our things. And if we do our things right we can beat any side in the world. We are quite confident going into the finals," said South African coach Micky Arthur.
West Indies will be looking for another stellar performance by Gayle, who is in fine form with both bat and ball. The Jamaican has so far amassed 304 runs in the tournament and is just 16 runs to upstage Sri Lanka's batsman Upul Tharanga (320) from the highest run getter's spot. Gayle has also picked up eight wickets with his gentle off-spin, two less than teammate Jerome Taylor.
Barring Lara, if there is any individual who can make the difference it could be 27-year-old left-hander Gayle. But it will need a collective effort from the West Indies to retain the title they won by beating England at the Oval in 2004.
Though the West Indies are high on confidence they would be wary of the tough South Africa, who also have had a good tournament. They convincingly won their Group B matches against Sri Lanka (Ahmedabad) and Pakistan (Mohali). Their only loss was against New Zealand in Mumbai where they lost by 87 runs.
So far the South African have banked on their bowlers, who have bowled brilliantly all throughout the series. Fast bowlers Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel have shown aggression and Shaun Pollock showed that although he has slowed down he remains a dangerous bowler with his impeccable line and length.
But it is high time the South African batsman fire against the pretty inexperienced West Indies bowling attack that had sprung a few surprises so far.
Herschelle Gibbs has failed to live up to his reputation while batting at No. 3, but he is a batsman who can come good any day.
Openers Graeme Smith and Boeta Dippenar have also failed to give a good start so far.
The middle order has done the rescue act for South Africa so far and the team would be pinning its hopes on wicket-keeper Mark Boucher, Justin Kemp and A.B. de Villiers who have bailed the team out of precarious situations.
India's exit from the eight-nation tournament might have subdued the mood in the Pink City but the West Indies-South Africa clash is expected to be an exciting one.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Jacques Kallis, Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher (wicket-keeper), A.B. de Villiers, Boeta Dippenaar, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Justin Kemp, Charles Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson and Shaun Pollock
West Indies: Brian Lara (captain), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Carlton Baugh (wicket-keeper), Ian Bradshaw, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Corey Collymore, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Runako Morton, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith and Jerome Taylor