Australia's mighty batting vs South Africa's feisty bowling

Brace yourself. These two top teams haven't faced each other in an ODI since the 2017 World Cup

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
Australia's batters have been the dominant force at this World Cup  •  Getty Images

Australia's batters have been the dominant force at this World Cup  •  Getty Images

Marizanne Kapp vs Alyssa Healy. Shabnim Ismail vs Rachael Haynes. And Meg Lanning against, well, the entire South African bowling attack. The only two unbeaten teams at the Women's World Cup will go head-to-head on Tuesday, and it is worth looking at their journey to this point because it has been all sorts of compelling.
Australia, not surprisingly, have marched into the semi-finals by stomping over all in their path. South Africa, meanwhile, have taken things to the very last over almost every game, and emerged victorious even against England, defending champions, and New Zealand, who have historically been much stronger than them.
Tuesday brings them face to face in an ODI for the first time in nearly five years and the winner may well be decided based on who prevails in the battle between Australia's mighty batting line-up and South Africa's feisty pace attack.
Lanning's team began the World Cup with a total of 310 against an experienced England side and they chased down a stiff 278 against India in their last game. They have scored three 250-plus totals in this tournament so far - more than any other team - and their batting average is a whopping 53.57, which is more than twice the next best, 26.11 by India. Don't be surprised at all that their scoring rate is also the best.
All this, led by the balanced left-right opening pair of a patient Haynes and attacking Healy, followed by the domineering Lanning at No. 3. They also have the experience of Ellyse Perry at No. 4 and a finisher in Beth Mooney after that.
"Obviously, our batting line-up is such an elite top four that I haven't had to do too much of the heavy lifting, which has been nice," Mooney said on the eve of the game. "But I also love the fact that I get to put my feet up and watch those girls go about their business and break the back of those run-chases really nicely. So to be able to contribute in the field is important to me as well. And thankfully Meg, Midge (Healy) and I have been doing okay behind the bat there."
Mooney, and Australia, are also aware of how well South Africa's "world-class bowling attack" has performed in the last two weeks. A regular wicket-taker in Kapp and one of the fastest bowlers in Ismail make for arguably the most lethal new-ball pair in the world. They are also well complemented by the slightly slower but accurate Ayabonga Khaka, who has nailed numerous yorkers and helped bail South Africa out against Bangladesh, get the big wickets of Amy Satterthwaite and Sophie Devine against New Zealand, and lead the wicket-taking charts along with Kapp, Hayley Matthews and Lea Tahuhu.
"Yeah, as a batting unit we spoke about coming up against Ismail and Kapp. They're probably two form opening bowlers in the world at the moment," Mooney said. "And we spoke about that against India as well with Jhulan Goswami and Meghna Singh so we know that the threat in most teams is up front and having to nullify that a lot.
"We also have played a few games here at the Basin [Reserve] and understand that's a pretty quick wicket, you know, taking our medicine, when we have to understand that the second those bowlers of that class miss their line and length a little bit, which isn't that often, we have to cash in. So not a whole lot of changes for our batting unit.
"As I said before, the girls have been doing an outstanding job up the top, breaking the back of those chases and getting us in positions where we can build a strong total to defend so I'm sure we'll see more of the same tomorrow against some competitors in Kapp and Ismail."
South Africa's pace attack has collected as many as 32 wickets in just four games so far, easily more than anyone else. And if that isn't enough, they have the best average and economy rate as well.
When asked if she was excited about facing Kapp, her team-mate at Perth Scorchers, Mooney replied that she was "slightly scared as well. We've seen what she can do with the bat and the ball and how competitive she is and that fiery nature she brings to the contest so looking forward to coming up against her this game and hopefully we can keep her a little bit quiet. And then she has been in in the last couple of games, but she's also shown she's always the one that puts her hand up for South Africa. So as I said, hopefully we can keep her a little bit quiet and get on top of them early."
There is an air of the unknown about this game, given that the two teams have met just once since the 2017 World Cup - in a T20I - but the players themselves have spent so much time with each other at the WBBL that it may not be that big a factor.
Apart from Mooney and Kapp in the Scorchers squad, Laura Wolvaardt was with Tahlia McGrath, Megan Schutt and Darcie Brown at Adelaide Strikers, and Mignon du Preez and Nicola Carey were together at Hobart Hurricanes.
"Yeah, it's a huge point that got raised in our meeting just before training," Mooney said of not facing South Africa in the recent years. "Obviously, they have been on a bit of a run and played a lot of consistent cricket across those five years against you know, some world-class opponents as well. Unfortunately, we haven't had too much of an opportunity to come up against them. They've shown they've got a world-class bowling attack as well as batters that can win the game for them, but we're pretty, pretty confident with the intel we have both playing with them in WBBL, and playing against some of the girls in that team that have been around for a long period of time.
Laura Wolvaardt said whatever they had seen of each other at the WBBL will work both ways for both teams.
"I think it helps a lot," she said. "It's actually one of the sides that I guess we should be most prepared for because a lot of our girls have spent quite a lot of time playing against and in the same team as a lot of their players. But I guess it goes both ways. I guess we might know their games a bit better, but they might know ours a bit better as well, having spent some time over there. So I think it's an advantage but I guess it gives them a bit of an advantage as well. So we'll see what happens."

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo