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Pressure can break Oz

The result of the semifinal between Australia and South Africa depends on how much self-belief Graeme Smith can inspire in his side, writes VIV richards.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2007 23:45 IST

The result of the semifinal between Australia and South Africa depends on how much self-belief Graeme Smith can inspire in his side. They have to believe that they can beat this formidable Australian unit. They have done it in the past, and they do have the personnel who can do it once again.

Australia's batting has been tremendous right through this tournament, which is why their bowling has not been under any pressure at any point in the tournament. The only side that did have Ricky Ponting worried for a bit was South Africa when they started their run chase very well in the game between these two sides at the group stage. The bowling was beginning to look a little ragged but just then, AB de Villiers's amazing run-out changed everything and soon South Africa were out of it.

I feel that young bowlers like Shaun Tait can be put under pressure, and perhaps some of the sides have been guilty of not attacking the Australian bowling enough. This is the best possible way in which you can put them under pressure. And since pressure is something they are not too used to at the moment, they might succumb.

The Australians have been so successful in this tournament not merely because they have played well, but also because they have been able to inspire awe in their opponents. Most teams have lost the game even before they start to play, such has been the dominance of the Australians over this last one week. They have been able to bowl out every opposition and they have batted amazingly well. However, South Africa have beaten this very Australian side in the past and must not get overawed by the quality of their opponents. If they are beaten in the mind, they will be overwhelmed in the field as well.

Smith needs to play without restraint and pressure. He will have to ensure that memories of the 1999 semifinal defeat do not come back to haunt the senior members of his team. He also needs himself and de Villiers to attack the Australian opening bowlers and set his team up well. Herschelle Gibbs has hit six sixes in this tournament; if he manages to steer his team to a win over Australia, even that achievement will pale in comparison.

The Australians are a champion side, and they deserve the success they have achieved so far. I like the way Ricky Ponting bats and leads his team with an aggression and belief that are rare in the sport. However, every game needs a new champion to re-ignite interest and even things up a bit. It cannot be good for a sport to have one team dominate for a few decades and then another team dominate for the next few decades. We need the gaps to be closed and other teams to challenge the Australians. They have raised the bar, but it's now up to other teams to raise themselves.

First Published: Apr 24, 2007 23:42 IST