Agencies
AUCLAND

Potentially the two best teams in the Cricket World Cup meet in a huge first semi-final on Tuesday in Auckland. The Kiwis are coming off a dominant victory over the West Indies in their quarter-final knockout match on the back of Martin Guptill's incredible 237 not-out, an effort which Stephen Fleming described as, "the greatest limited-overs innings in history by a New Zealand player."
With much at stake, the Proteas would need to bring their 'A' game up against the tournament co-hosts The South Africans are blessed with all-round firepower. Their batting is dominated by men who can clear the ropes with ease, right through the 50 overs. Quinton de Kock's form was a concern but his solid knock against Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals would have given the young wicketkeeper batsman plenty of confidence. De Kock's opening partner Hashim Amla is as classy as they come. The elegant right-handed batsman can steer the innings with the composure of an able artist and then break lose to inflict severe damage. The men who follow him are mass destructors of bowling attacks. Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and David Miller - these four names drill dread into bowlers across the world.
Du Plessis is known to clobber the big ones, de Villiers has the fastest 50, 100 and 150 to his name while Duminy and Miller are not ones to be taken lightly down the order. So much for the batsmen. The Proteas are even more threatening with the ball. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philnder form one of the most potent pace batteries in the world. Their speed and accuracy will make the likes of Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill think twice before taking risks against the new balls in Auckland.
Even though the lineup suggests class and aura, South Africa are not without their own weaknesses. They have been found out over the years in big match situations and not without reason has the term 'chokers' become such an integral part of the media's depiction of the team. The latest example came against Pakistan, when chasing a tricky total, the Africans imploded. They were in a solid position at one point, but kept losing wickets thereafter. Despite a valiant effort from de Villiers, South Africa ended up losing. The Proteas have been found wanting in high pressure and their chasing can do with a lot of improvement.
New Zealand are the flavour of the season. The entire cricket world has been smitten by the fire-brand cricket they have put on display this World Cup. They have been in supreme form and have stormed their way into the World Cup semi-final - the sixth time in World Cup history!
However, the Kiwis have never gone past the semi-finals ever and this time against South Africa, it would be a tall order. AB de Villiers and his men are in sound form and after registering their first win in a World Cup knockout game, look charged to wipe out the disappointments of their past.
The teams are of equal strength but there are a few cracks in both teams that could be the decisive factors in such a evenly matched game. The new-ball bowling has to be New Zealand's biggest strength. The duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult have combined brilliantly and their opening bursts have left the opposition reeling. They can swing the ball at pace, both ways, and with two new balls at each end, the right and left hand combination has been a nightmare for the opponent top order.
Up top, Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill have been devastating. If Southee and Boult have wreaked havoc with the new ball, McCullum and Guptill have got the Kiwis off-the-block with blazing starts. McCullum has been his attacking self while, Guptill has found a new dimension to his batting. He has struck form at the correct time and with a record-breaking double ton against West Indies, looks to be a serious threat.
McCullum isn't just the captain of this side, he's a leader and that has been New Zealand's biggest strength. McCullum has galvanized a solid Black Caps unit into a world-beating one. He's not only their leader, but also the real box-office player in the team - the player with the x-factor for the big matches. He believes in leading from the front and his philosophy is simple - attack! He has instilled his attacking instincts with the bat into his captaincy and that has rubbed off onto his team. Result - New Zealand look a lethal unit.
These teams are very hard to separate. Littered with superstars with big-game experience, both the Blackcaps and the Proteas will come into this match expecting nothing less than a victory. South Africa are slight favourites with the bookies despite never before making a tournament decider since their entry into the World Cup in 1992.