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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 18:29 GMT
Agnew's World Cup verdict - South Africa
AustraliaSri LankaNew ZealandPakistanSouth AfricaEnglandEnglandIndia

By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

South Africa
Many people will have South Africa on their shortlist as finalists or potential winners.

In truth, they have a pretty rotten record in the four World Cups they have played.

And we said at the last two that if they played well they had a chance of winning. But they failed to do so, and just bottled it really.

There was the famous run-out of Allan Donald against Australia in the semi-final of 1999, then they went out in Durban in 2003 after misinterpreting the rain regulations.

You feel that if Stephen Fleming had been captain of their team on those two occasions none of it would have happened.

Their current captain Graeme Smith has said he feels the team are calmer now.

SOUTH AFRICA: SEEDED 5
South Africa team shot
Sporting sanctions forced South Africa to miss the first four World Cups
They have since made two semi-finals, in 1992 and 1999
They needed that, because they have certainly been hampered by being a bit too frenetic at times.

And now they have just beaten India and Pakistan, are rated the number one team in the official rankings and are clearly in decent touch.

Although they really lack a quality spinner, they possess a good bowling attack.

Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini are both wicket-takers, then there's Andre Nel who winds people up but is actually quite steady and Andrew Hall who bowls well at the death.

Of them, Pollock and Hall can bat as well and there are some good specialist batsmen too, in the shape of Smith, Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs.

They are all good, solid players who have been around a long time.

If the one specialist slow bowler in the squad, Robin Petersen, does not play at all, then Smith will bowl his occasional off-spin and the medium-pacers will bowl a few slower balls.

One problem South Africa might encounter is the pitches. Of all the teams they are probably least suited to the conditions.

They've got attacking, aggressive bowlers, but you just get the feeling it might be a tournament for negative bowlers.

As the bookmakers' second favourites, it is bizarre that they are facing Australia in their group. That match between the two sides on 24 March in St Kitts will be a fascinating pointer.



SEE ALSO
One-day crown 'boosts S Africa'
18 Feb 07 |  South Africa
South Africa - Players to watch
22 Feb 07 |  South Africa
Cricket World Cup 2007 schedule
20 Jul 05 |  Cricket
How the World Cup evolved
15 Feb 07 |  International Teams
Cricket World Cup records
14 Feb 07 |  Cricket


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