• In 66 matches, Australia has won 35 and South Africa 28
  • In the four WC meetings, Australia leads 2-1 with a `tie' in 1999

    GROS ISLET (St. Lucia): Australia has beaten all its major rivals on the way to the World Cup semifinals. Now South Africa gets a second chance.

    Beaten by 83 runs in the group phase, South Africa will become the latest nation to try to stop a rampant Australian team from winning the title for an unprecedented third time in a row.

    "What has happened before means nothing. We hope to win and go on to a World Cup final," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said ahead of Wednesday's game in St. Lucia.

    Putting a brave face on it is about as much as Smith can do.

    Brutal best

    Every team has been resoundingly beaten and Australia's batsmen are at their brutal best. The bowlers combine the raw pace of Shaun Tait and the metronomic accuracy of Glenn McGrath and a handful of one-day specialist bowlers who frustrate and contain batsmen.

    McGrath and opening batsman Matthew Hayden are the leading bowler and batsman respectively so far in the World Cup.

    Hayden, discarded as a one-day player six months ago, is in awesome form in the Caribbean.

    Massive average

    In eight innings he has scored 580 runs, averaging a massive 82.85 with three centuries. He also tops the Super Eight batting statistics, with 390 runs from five innings.

    One of the centuries, in 66 balls, was made against South Africa in the group stages as Australia amassed 376 for an easy victory.

    "It's continual persistence and the pure joy of playing for your country," the left-hander said. "I've got runs and I've been consistent."

    The 35-year-old Queenslander was speaking after an extraordinary, hour-long solo practice session in which he peppered the Beausejour stadium, sending onlookers and ground staff running for cover.

    Even if Hayden has a bad day, Australia still has Adam Gilchrist, captain Ricky Ponting or the likes of Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey or Andrew Symonds to come up with a big innings. But South Africa will be no pushovers if the team combines its undoubted talent.

    Smith's left knee was wrapped in an ice pack on Monday after an injury he picked up during a nine-wicket victory over England last week that took the team into the semifinal. But he came through a lengthy net session and said he was confident he would be fit for Wednesday's match.

    Smith and A.B. de Villiers have established a good working relationship as openers and even resembled the destructive Australians as they bludgeoned their way to victory against England. In Jacques Kallis, South Africa has a potential match winner. One of cricket's most destructive Test cricketers, Kallis has struggled to adapt to the one-day game but provides a crucial platform around which the team's more aggressive stroke players like Andrew Hall and Herschelle Gibbs can operate.

    Smith prevaricated when asked about his bowling attack on Wednesday, hinting that spinner Robin Peterson might play.

    That seems unlikely as he has played virtually no part in the tournament.

    Pace bowler Makhaya Ntini was surprisingly replaced by Charl Langeveldt against England after returning some moderate performances and it is not known if Ntini will make it in the South Africa team.

    The teams (from): Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt.), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Brad Hodge, Shane Watson, Michael Hussey, Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait, Glenn McGrath, Stuart Clark, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson.

    South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt.), A.B. de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Ashwell Prince, Robin Peterson, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Andre Nel, Andrew Hall, Makhaya Ntini and Charl Langeveldt.

    Umpires: Steve Bucknor and Aleem Dar. TV umpire: Billy Bowden.

    Hours of play (IST): 7 to 10.30 p.m. and 11.15 p.m. till close. AP

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