The curtain on the six-week long World Cup fiesta will fall in Bangladesh with South Africa facing New Zealand in a quarter-final match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium today.
The carnival began here on February 12 with the Bangladesh-Canada warm-up game in Chittagong and it has gone through a lot of highs and lows before it finally comes to an end.
The tournament will still continue in two other host countries, India and Sri Lanka, but Bangladesh will have no stake as their national side bowed out before the quarter-final stage.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board has planned a 10-minute long fireworks after the South-Africa New Zealand match to mark the end of festivity and residents surrounding the stadium have been requested not to be afraid at the sound of fireworks.
Out in the field, however, there will be very little firing as spinners are expected to dominate the game as has been the case in five games held at the stadium so far.
New Zealand have won three of their five World Cup matches against South Africa, including a five-wicket success in the Super Eights round of the 2007 edition, but they will still start the game as clear underdogs.
It is not just because they lost 4-0 to Bangladesh at the very ground barely five months ago, but because of their formidable opponents, who are in a terrific form winning all but one of their six group games.
The only one they lost against England and in that game too they dominated all though before a magic spell of Stuart Broad inflicted a six-run defeat on them.
South Africa, the only side to dismiss every side that came their way, are one of the top favourites to lift the trophy and if they fail to win the title it will be considered as a massive upset.
In five previous tournaments, the Proteas have crashed out three times in the semi-finals, once in the quarter-final and another time in the first round, which earned them the unwanted tag of cricket’s ‘perennial chokers’.
But Smith said they are not ready to give up at this stage.
‘The key is that we’ve been able to pick up wickets through that middle period and when we’ve been given opportunities we’ve been able to pounce on them, take two or three wickets at a time,’ he said.
‘Our intensity, our commitment to our skills in the field has been great. I just think it’s a mindset thing.
‘Our spinners really believe they can perform well in these conditions and as a captain it’s about giving them the right fields and giving them the belief to perform in certain situations,’ he added.
‘We don’t just have 40 overs of seam now, we can mix it up and match it. We’ve got a lot of attacking options which has allowed us to take 10 wickets in every game so far,’ said Smith.
New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori also admitted South Africa are the favourites.
‘I think they have been one of the form teams in world cricket for a long time, we know it’s going to be a huge challenge, we know they have got good players all up and down their order.
‘But I think like any captain would be sitting and say that it’s about what we do tomorrow. We can play well and we give ourselves a chance, if we don’t do it against a team like South Africa it’s going to be tough,’ he said.
Courtesy of New Age