Tuesday 24 April 2007 

South Africa Aim At Australian Top Order In Cup Semis

South Africa will take aim at Australia's strongest area by targeting their top order batsmen in their World Cup semi-final on Wednesday, skipper Graeme Smith said.

Australian opener Matthew Hayden has hit three hundreds, including smashing the fastest in tournament history in the 83-run win over South Africa in a group match in St Kitts.

Hayden leads the list for most runs in the tournament and skipper Ricky Ponting shares the second spot with South Africa number three Jacques Kallis.

"Australia haven't looked like being beaten," Smith told a news conference on Monday. "We're not sitting here expecting them to play a bad game. We're hoping to beat the best Australian team."

Smith said the key would be taking early wickets because the Australian batting line-up ran deep.

"Hayden especially upfront has been phenomenal throughout. We will look at those things and come up with a game plan on how we can get into the middle order as quick as we can," he said.

"If you get in and get wickets upfront, it does certainly curb a lot of their attacking players."

Smith is hoping to overcome a knee injury before the semi-final after curtailing his training on Monday.

The 26-year-old was not sure teams could post huge totals at the Beausejour Stadium after Australia amassed their Cup record 377 in the tiny St Kitts ground against South Africa.

OLD SCARS

Smith said South Africa no longer carried the scars from their 1999 Cup elimination after a dramatic tie against eventual winners Australia.

South Africa, dubbed Cup chokers for caving in under pressure, were also eliminated in 2003 at home after the team had misread the Duckworth-Lewis form in a rain-hit first-round game against Sri Lanka and were left one run short of victory.

The players were keen to perform better than hope to get lucky, Smith added.

"You got to make your own luck and hopefully on Wednesday we can make our own luck by playing good cricket," Smith said.

"Things start to go your way when you put teams under pressure, when you got them on the back foot.

"We don't come into the semi-final tensed in any way. We seem to have got through a lot of those tentative times."

South Africa have a psychologist in their entourage but Smith said there had been no special sessions to prepare for Australia.

"All the guys are the most confident I've seen them throughout the tournament and that bodes well," he said. "It is just about going out there and enjoying and playing some good cricket."

Australia would be wary of in-form Herschelle Gibbs.

Gibbs smashed 175 in a stunning one-wicket series-clinching win in Johannesburg in 2006 chasing Australia's record total of 434.

"Herschelle is one guy Australia would fear," he said. "He is unpredictable, he has got shots all round the wicket and has played well throughout the tournament."

© Reuters 2007

More from Cricket World

Hashim Amla (left) and AB de Villiers batted for all but 15.5 overs of the opening day

Amla, De Villiers Dominate

17 December 2014