Trent Bridge is ready and waiting for a true cricketing extravaganza as the ICC World Twenty20 reaches its climax.
All tickets for tomorrow’s Semi-Finals Day are sold out, with India taking on New Zealand in the Women’s competition at 1.30pm before competition favourites South Africa play Pakistan at 5.30pm.
Unbeaten in the tournament so far, South Africa can take one step closer to shaking off the unwanted tag of ‘chokers’ by beating the mercurial Pakistan team, who scraped through to the Super 8’s with victory over the Netherlands but have steadily grown in confidence since.
Ever since the famous finish to their World Cup campaign in 1999, which saw Allan Donald run out by Australia needing one to win off the final ball, South Africa have promised much without delivering in world tournaments.
But their squad has had all the answers to questions posed by opponents so far in the tournament, brushing aside England, India and the West Indies in the Super 8 stages, with captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers in good form with the bat, while their bowling attack of Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell and spinner Johan Botha have proved hard to get away.
Unsurprisingly the team are feeling confident and coach Mickey Arthur said: “We’ve been in pressure situations before and have come through them. It’s a different team of players, a different set of management and coaching staff.
“Yes, we could get beaten tomorrow and then the chokers tag might surface, but for us that’s not an issue so long as we are playing the game to the best of our ability. We aren’t scared of losing. Mentally our team is very strong.”
Mark Boucher is one of three high profile members of the team who have taken part in all the international campaigns since 1999 and said: “We have been in a few semis before but there’s a different feeling about this team.
“We’ve been through a lot of tests in the last couple of years which we have come through with flying colours. We’ve handled pressure pretty well and hopefully that is a sign of things to come in the final stages of this tournament.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan captain Younus Khan has said the team want to the win the tournament as a tribute to former coach Bob Woolmer, who died during the 2007 World Cup.
Said Younus: “Bob was an inspiring person, like a father figure for me and the team. We all still miss him and if we win the ICC World Twenty20 I will dedicate that final game to him.”
After losing their opening group game to England, Pakistan have played with increasing confidence and Younus added: “Everybody knows we’re slow starters.
“We take some time and we need some time for ourselves and now we know we are just two wins away from winning the ICC World Twenty20.”