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South Africa v New Zealand, Group E, Durban

Kemp shows his class

S Rajesh in Durban

September 19, 2007

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Justin Kemp's obvious strengths are his raw power and timing and these were on ample display today © Getty Images
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South Africa and New Zealand both play a similar brand of cricket - both lack a huge star, but have plenty of players who chip in with both bat and ball. Neither team gives away much in the field, and both like to fight it out to the finish. Given all these ingredients, it's hardly surprising that their clash went into the last over, with one performance, essentially, being the difference between the two teams.

Justin Kemp has demonstrated his hitting abilities often enough to be considered a threat in any form of limited-overs cricket, and while he started the tournament in style with 46 off 22 balls against West Indies, this was his first opportunity to be a matchwinner for his team, and he performed the task with aplomb. When he had only one run on the board after ten deliveries, there might have been doubts about South Africa's ability to pull it off, but any player who hits the ball as cleanly and powerfully as Kemp must be given the allowance of a few extra deliveries to get themselves in, for the rewards can be handsome. Every dot ball was well worth the investment, as once Kemp got into his stride, the runs-balls ratio reversed rapidly.

Kemp's obvious strengths are his raw power and timing, but his success also owes to precise knowledge of his strengths, and his ability to play within his limitations. Kemp's wagon-wheel indicates 60 of his 89 runs came in the midwicket and long-on region - mostly through meaty blows down the ground and over long-on, or flicks and pulls through midwicket. He wasn't as savage through the off side, save for one back-foot thump off a very slow and short ball from Daniel Vettori, but with the runs coming at such a torrential rate, he didn't need to attempt strokes he wasn't comfortable playing.

There were no signs of panic either when the asking rate climbed to ten and beyond. "In this form of the game you can catch up quickly," he said after the match, and it's a lesson some of the other teams would do well to keep in mind.

Kemp's innings was an excellent one, but he was also helped by an extremely uneven bowling display by New Zealand, who had two superb performers - Daniel Vettori and Mark Gillespie - but also two very poor ones.

The win makes South Africa the only unbeaten team in the tournament, and with their all-round firepower, they have every chance of making it beyond the semi-finals. And if Kemp continues to dazzle like he did today, even the lack of a slow bowler might not cost them in Johannesburg

With his height and his high-arm action, Jacob Oram has the requisite weapons to be a back-of-the-length bowler, but he has lost so much confidence lately that he is simply landing the ball on the wicket with no venom or bite. His only strategy for the afternoon seemed to be to try yorkers, but so many of them turned out to be full-tosses that it was almost comical. Kemp caught on to this tactic very quickly and was virtually waiting for the low full toss every ball, and more often than not he wasn't disappointed.

It might have all been quite different for Oram - and for Kemp - had Billy Doctrove agreed with an lbw shout off the second ball he bowled. Kemp, then on six from 12 balls, shuffled across and looked palpably in front, but that wasn't good enough for the umpire. Kemp cashed in, and New Zealand had to pay.

The win makes South Africa the only unbeaten team in the tournament, and with their all-round firepower, they have every chance of making it beyond the semi-finals. And if Kemp continues to dazzle like he did today, even the lack of a slow bowler might not cost them in Johannesburg.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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