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'NZ has always been a street smart team'

Last updated on: March 24, 2011 16:31 IST

SA in great form


Bikash Mohapatra in Dhaka

The result is a foregone conclusion.

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No we are not jumping the gun. However, it is certain that many will be surprised if New Zealand does manage to get it across South Africa in the third quarter-final of the ICC World Cup in Mirpur on Friday.

It is a David vs Goliath match-up, literally.

New Zealand booked their berth in the last eight courtesy wins against the three minnows in Group A -- Zimbabwe, Kenya and Canada -- and a surprise success against Pakistan.

More importantly though, the Black Caps lost two crucial matches against bigger opposition -- Australia and Sri Lanka, something that meant they finished last in their group.

South Africa, on the other hand, has been the form team of the tournament. Save a shocking loss to England, Graeme Smith's men have won all their other matches.

Image: South African players during a practice session
Photographs: Reuters

'We just got to prepare as best as we can'

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Besides, the Proteas have beaten the Black Caps on 30 occasions in ODIs -- as opposed to just 17 losses.

Many therefore, expect Friday's match-up to be one-sided. Smith was at his diplomatic best though when asked the question.

"Look I can't predict that," he said, adding, "We just got to prepare as best as we can and come out hopefully play our best game tomorrow the same way we have done each of the round robin game."

The South African captain very consciously refrained from underestimating the opposition.

"New Zealand has always been a street smart team," he reasoned, adding, "They have always played well to their abilities and they have always got guys we can contribute a lot to the team.

"You need to respect them and you need to play well to beat them."

Image: South Africa's Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith during a practice session

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Vettori, McCullum would be key

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The South African captain was equally pertinent in his answer when queried about New Zealand's strengths.

"I think they have got some top four power batters," explained Smith, adding, "Some guys who can really take the game to you.

"And from the bowling point of view, they generally take the pace off the ball. And obviously they got Nathan McCullum and Daniel Vettori as spinners who can perform well.

"I think the thing about New Zealand is that they contribute all the way down," he said.

Image: New Zealand's Daniel Vettori stretches during a cricket practice session

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'Selection has always been tough'

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However, what perturbed Smith more than playing New Zealand was whom to pick for the match.

"Selection has always been tough and it's getting tougher because guys have performed well," he explained, adding, "It's an ideal challenge to have the players performing well, you got good squad of players to pick from and that's what we really wanted to have coming into the World Cup.

"We have got a squad of 15 and won't rely on seven-eight guys to win you the World Cup."

South Africa's opponents better take note of the above statement.

Image: Imran Tahir
Photographs: Getty Images
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