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CWC19: New Zealand vs South Africa - 3 Things We Learned

This was the match-up that has produced real contests over the last two editions of the Cricket World Cup. These two sides have enthralled both supporters and neutrals with everything from venom to heartbreak to pure brilliance. Even the most casual observer knew before the match that this one was going to be close regardless of the result.

How right those casual observers were! Here are the three key takeaways from this gripping encounter:

This is what India v Pakistan should be

To be real "contests", a cricket match requires three things, a) two well matched teams in terms of talent, b) an equal sprinkling of game-changing or explosive players on both sides, and c) an emotional quotient that helps some go to the next level and compels the weak to crumble most inexplicably.

Neutrals may not grasp the New Zealand vs South Africa rivalry, but it does exist. This rivalry didn't start with cricket, but was seeded by the two nations' shared passion for rugby supremacy. The apartheid era added a political dimension to this through the sporting boycotts, but in reality this is a rivalry based not on political disputes or jingoism, but on pure thrill of bettering an equal.

A fractious series during the Smith and Fleming eras brought some of the rugby emotion to the cricket field and in recent World Cups it's fair to say that these two teams have produced entirely gripping and see-sawing matches that help us remember why the ODI format and the ODI World Cup, in particular, is such a treat for fans.

These two teams show us just what is missing from India v Pakistan world cup matches. Time for the Pakis to pull up their socks, no?

Change your mindset, change your life

This is one of the four secrets of life and I've talked about it previously, but it's never been more true than when it's applied to the South African plight in cricket world cups.

In 1992, they were unlucky. In 1996, they were probably done under by a match-fixing captain and nobody expected them to do well in the subcontinent anyway. In 1999, they choked and it seems as if they've actually started believing in their own mental fragility, which is undoubtedly is stopping them from shaking the "chokers" tag.

Modern research tells us that we are what we believe. It's not a new concept, people like Napolean Hill had provided some "evidence" that this maxim was true many decades ago. The evidence of South Africa's world cup performances show us with complete certainty that the chokers tag has been (probably inadvertently) passed down through the various generations of South African teams - much like children imbibe the fears and biases of their parents from a very young age.

Their dropping of easy catches, missing easy run outs and not calling for reviews of clearly audible nicks are prime examples of team who's spirits have wilted because they believe that they don't have a chance of winning.

If you're a sports psychologist this is your chance to make a difference. To work with talented players and help take them to a new level simply be helping them believe in themselves. You'd be doing the cricketing world a huge favour by succeeding at this task too!

Do the Kiwis have a beautiful game in them?

The Kiwis have shown us that they can fight doggedly to win matches in this world cup. This grit is important in early-summer English conditions. But with the three favourites, Australia, England and India, showing that they can pile on big scores against half-decent bowling attacks, New Zealand batsmen will soon need to find a way to be fluent and confident in order to post or chase 300+ scores.

It's pretty clear to me that the semi-finalists have already been decided and New Zealand have the advantage of playing group games at all grounds that will host the semi-finals and the final, including Lords, which will host the final. But there has been a certain kink in their batting displays that should give Kiwi fans pause for thought about whether the men in black can really turn it on over the next 3 weeks.

As an aside, India is the only team of the four semi-finalists that will not play at Lords before reaching the final. Who in the BCCI allowed this to happen?

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