Déjà vu as Proteas stumble again to Australia in a Cricket World Cup semifinal
The Proteas went down by three wickets in a tense semifinal encounter against Australia on Thursday, putting their quest for a first World Cup final appearance on hold for another four years.
South Africa lost by three wickets to Australia in yet another Cricket World Cup semifinal heartbreak. It’s the third time, after 1999 and 2007, that the men in green have been undone by those in yellow in a World Cup semifinal.
The Proteas were chasing the game from the get-go after being 24 for four in the 12th over. They played catch-up for the rest of the match.
David Miller scored an outstanding chanceless century on the sticky Eden Gardens wicket in Kolkata to get South Africa to a respectable total of 212 all out.
The score was always under par, but the South African bowlers put up an incredible fight to take the match deep, nabbing seven Aussie wickets, with Australia hitting the winning runs in only the 48th over.
South Africa needed everything to fall their way in the field, but they dropped four difficult catches.
The Proteas’ spin bowling duo of Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi were integral to keeping the Aussies in check, bowling 20 overs as a pair and only conceding 66 runs while grabbing three scalps.
But South Africa’s score was just not enough as Pat Cummins cut a loose Marco Jansen delivery for four to seal the win.
Australia will now contest their eighth Cricket World Cup final when they take on India on Sunday, while South Africa continue to chase their first final.
The 212 runs were always going to be a tough task to defend, but it was made even more difficult courtesy of a fast start by the Aussie openers.
David Warner (29 off 18) and Travis Head (62 off 48) smacked 60 runs off the first six overs, bowled by Kagiso Rabada and a particularly wayward Jansen. The latter bowled four wides in his opening spell.
Aiden Markram was brought into the attack in the seventh over and bowled a maiden wicket, castling Warner with his first delivery.
Rabada followed that up by getting rid of Mitchell Marsh for a duck the following over.
Head and Steve Smith (30 off 62) put up a team-high partnership of 45. Head was dropped twice, once just before reaching 50 by Reeza Hendricks and again right after 50 by Klaasen.
Maharaj, who was held back until the 15th over, ripped through between Head’s bat and pad to eventually dismiss the destructive opener.
Marnus Labuschagne (18 off 31) survived a tight LBW call by Shamsi. But Shamsi trapped Labuschagne an over later after the Aussie bungled an attempted reverse sweep.
Shamsi clean-bowled Glenn Maxwell (one off five) in the following over to keep South Africa holding on to the hope of a victory.
But Josh Inglis (28 off 49) and Steve Smith (30 off 62) combined for a composed 37-run partnership to get the Aussies to within 39 runs of the target.
Gerald Coetzee dismissed both batters to keep the tension alive. First, Smith skied a full delivery straight up, then Coetzee cleaned up Inglis with a perfectly executed yorker.
Mitchell Starc (16 off 38) and Cummins (14 off 29) kept their composure to seal the victory despite a near-heroic late spell by Coetzee, who bowled eight overs on the trot.
South Africa elected to stick to their strengths and bat first, despite the overcast overhead conditions and a pitch with some bite.
It was a miserable first hour of play for South Africa, which saw them four wickets down with 24 runs on the board in the 12th over.
South Africa’s capitulation started in the first over when Starc found Temba Bavuma’s outside edge. Bavuma (zero off four) admitted before the match he was “not 100% fit”.
Australia’s bowlers extracted swing, seam and bounce from the responsive Eden Gardens surface.
Australia conceded only eight runs in the first five overs, two of those coming from extras. Superb fielding by the Australian inner ring helped to build the pressure, with Warner and Labuschagne diving like soccer goalkeepers to prevent anything from getting past them.
It was effective as Quinton de Kock (three off 14) — playing his final one-day international fixture — tried to hit out of the pressure, but struck a Josh Hazlewood delivery straight up into the air.
The opening bowlers continued their demolition, getting rid of an out-of-sorts Rassie van der Dussen (six off 31) and Aiden Markram (10 off 20).
There was a short rain break after 14 overs and Heinrich Klaasen (47 off 48 and Miller (101 off 116) rebuilt the innings astutely. The pair put on a 95-run partnership to take the score to 119 for six.
After being hit for consecutive fours, Head dismissed Klaasen and Jansen in consecutive deliveries to stifle the Proteas’ attempted resurgence.
But Miller continued to strike the ball sweetly despite the turning conditions. He was particularly brutal on the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, Adam Zampa.
Miller struck five sixes and eight fours, with his final six being a brutal pull off Cummins to bring up his century. He was dismissed the following delivery by the Aussie skipper to dampen any hope of South Africa reaching in excess of 230.
It was another Cricket World Cup semifinal loss for the Proteas. But on this occasion, unlike so many in the past, they showed grit and fight to come within a few small breaks of achieving a historic feat. DM