Proteas out to make history in their semifinal clash against the Aussies
The Proteas have an opportunity to become the first South African men’s team to make a Cricket World Cup final when they play Australia in the semifinal on Thursday, 16 November.
South Africa take on Australia in the second Cricket World Cup semifinal at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday, 16 November — the third time the two sides meet in a World Cup semifinal.
In 1999, the sides played to a tie, but Australia went through to the final by virtue of finishing higher in the Super Six stage of the tournament.
In 2007, the Aussies smashed South Africa by seven wickets. On both occasions, Australia went on to win the tournament, while South Africa are still in search of their first final appearance.
“The way we’ve performed as a team it’s obviously created a lot of positive sentiment but obviously high expectations,” Proteas skipper Temba Bavuma said at the pre-match press conference.
“A lot of people believe that this could be the year that we see ourselves in the final. And I mean, look, as a team [and] individually we’d like nothing better than that.”
Bavuma acknowledged that the Proteas will face an experienced Australian side.
“We’re not coming up against a Mickey Mouse team,” the captain said. “Australia have a lot of experience and confidence in knockout games like this, so we’ve got to respect that.
“I’d hate to say that we deserve to go through because of the way we played our cricket.
“I don’t think that’s the way things go. But I think from our performances, from the processes that we’ve followed to get to this point, we’ll continue to lean on that and we believe that will take care of the result in itself.”
Australia have seven players in their current squad who were part of their victorious 2015 Cricket World Cup campaign in their home country: David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Marsh and captain Pat Cummins.
Aussies chase sixth World Cup title
Despite South Africa often dominating bilateral one-day international (ODI) cricket, they have struggled on the global stage, unlike Australia, who are chasing an unprecedented sixth World Cup title.
“We feel lucky that we’ve been in these situations quite a bit, a lot of our players,” Aussie skipper Cummins said on Wednesday.
“So, you know what it takes, but also, you’re not really weighed down by history. You get more excited about the challenge and just get stuck into what needs to be done.
“[It’s] hard to speak on their behalf, but I do know each World Cup, it does seem to be the story that South Africa haven’t quite achieved, obviously, what they set out to do.”
South Africa have a fantastic recent record against Australia, having won the last four ODIs against the men from Down Under, including a 134-run thumping in the second match of the World Cup.
That was Australia’s second consecutive loss in the tournament after they lost to India by six wickets in the first match. The Aussies have since won seven in a row and enter the semifinal high on confidence.
Cummins, however, believes the previous encounters between the two sides “don’t count for too much. Obviously, you start from scratch every time you play. They’re a team we’ve played quite a lot and know quite well.
“This week it’s probably going to be quite different to … the South African series that we just played against them a couple of months ago.”
Aussie leg spinner Adam Zampa, who is the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 22 scalps, is expected to play a big role on the Eden Gardens wicket, which Bavuma said he is anticipating to turn.
“In terms of looking at the wicket, we feel that it potentially could be a wicket that assists the spinners a lot more,” Bavuma said.
“If it is up to me, I’m definitely playing our two front-line spinners. Obviously, Keshav [Maharaj] and [Tabraiz] Shamsi. We obviously have Aiden [Markram] as well, who also gives us an option there.”
Bavuma is nursing a hamstring injury he sustained in the final round-robin match against Afghanistan. The decision on whether the skipper takes the field will be made before the toss.
“Physically I feel alright. Obviously not 100%… I’m quite confident, but I mean, it’s not a unilateral decision that will be made,” he said.
Despite the enormity of the occasion for the Proteas, there is serenity within the squad, according to the captain.
“There’s a sense of calmness within the team and obviously the normal level of anxiety that you would expect, going into the game tomorrow. But I think we’ll take a lot of confidence with our performances up until this point,” Bavuma said about his team, who lost only to the Netherlands and India in the round-robin stage.
However, South Africa’s brilliance then will count for nothing in a knockout match where the slate is wiped clean. DM
The first ball of the semifinal clash between the Proteas and Australia will be bowled at 10.30am on Thursday morning.