CricInfo at World Cup 1999
[The ICC Cricket World Cup - England 1999]

Semi-final, Australia v South Africa, 17 June 1999

Trevor Chesterfield

MANCHESTER (England) - It can be quite entertaining who you are likely to bump into when out dining out in one of the 800 Asian restaurants in a city as large as Birmingham. The chances of Bob Woolmer and Geoff Marsh doing just that before South Africa play Australia in the World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston are remote enough.

But the guarantee of one dropping in on the other to merely to add spite to the evening by eavesdropping on the strategies and game plans being worked out are also the sort of long odds Bangladesh were given to win the tournament. Which are far more than the joint favourites tag South Africa and Australia now have in a match seen as the real final. Pakistan would no doubt dispute such a notion. After all, they have also shown the sort of class and regenerated the spirit of adventure which saw them win a repeat of their 1992 semi-final at Eden Park in Auckland.

While most of the worry in the South Africa camp still surrounds the fitness of key all-rounder Jacques Kallis, Woolmer was seen chatting to Lance Klusener over a meal of curried chicken not too far from Edgbaston, scene of today's repeat of Sunday's game at Headingley in Old Trafford. Marsh's 'accomplice' was none other than the Australian captain, Steve Waugh.

If the top Australian brass wanted a private think tank on their own you can guarantee Woolmer and Klusener had other game plan thoughts on their minds, and not just about launching a lower-order assault on the Aussie bowlers either.

Yet such is the secrecy surrounding this second semi-final that the two camps have been training very much aware of the 'spy in the camp' scenario and saying little apart from the skipper issuing the latest health bulletin on Kallis' injury.

'He showed no discomfort after the nets and we are quite happy about the way he was bowling,' Cronje said yesterday. 'We still have a few hours in our favour which helps us.'

Which are the sort of crumbs of comfort emerging from the South African camp to sustain the team's supporters who are a lot less vocal than the Asians who are quick to let you know whose side they are supporting. The brash British soccer crowd element can also learn a lot from such vocal support. Drums, hooters, chanting and the occasional fireworks: it is all part of the carnival. While this dump of a ground had an distinctly Asian flavour yesterday, Edgbaston should be quietly sedate by comparison.

For South Africa though, their second World Cup semi-final in seven years and four months is partly a tribute to their determination and partly to the flair of the young men who have spent 18 months building for this moment. Kallis is just one of those young men. Klusener, Shaun Pollock, Herschelle Gibbs and Mark Boucher are the others.

The ability of the side to have come this far, however, is also because they have a belief in their ability to come back when

It is about setting targets or successfully chasing them and minimising the opposition. It is also about bowling to a field and squeezing the run rate, much of it worked out from the plethora of limited-overs games played since the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in September: 10 months of planning and scheming and working out options.

While South Africa went into this tournament as confident favourites, the batting has not always been consistent. It has been left to the bowlers to win the games, which is where Kallis has become such an important factor in the limited-overs game because of his ability to swing the white ball.

The Australian top-order, for all the confidence of putting together match-winning totals, have all too often fallen prey to the swing in the damper English conditions. Against weaker bowling attacks such as that offered by Zimbabwe, Scotland, Bangladesh and even West Indies, they have prospered.

Yet a little extra pace and variation has made Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting as vulnerable as any lower order who can barely scratch a few runs together.

There are also any number of games within a game: Glenn McGrath against Gary Kirsten and Gibbs; Shane Warne against Daryll Cullinan, the dominance of the middle-order batsmen against the pace and fieldsmen on the prowl to choke off the runs and contain the batsmen in the first 15 overs.

It is also about two teams with strong psychological differences with South Africa eager to rub out the memories of past indignities.

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