Aussies book spot in final with tense win over Proteas
ALTHOUGH it was not always smooth sailing, Australia has claimed a three-wicket win over South Africa to advance to the 2023 One Day International (ODI) World Cup final after a tense semi-final.
It looked as if the Aussies were in the box seat for much of the first innings, but the five-time champions had to withstand a nerve-racking finish to get the job done at Eden Gardens on Thursday night.
The result now sets up a tantalising decider against the unbeaten India, with the host nation also advancing with a big win over New Zealand on Wednesday.
Travis Head, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins all played crucial roles to get the Aussies over the line in what was a clash that had plenty of ebbs and flows.
South Africa won the toss and opted to bat, but it was a move that almost immediately backfired, with the Proteas’ top order struggling to make any sort of impact on a sweaty, sticky Eden Gardens pitch.
Starc struck first by forcing an edge from South Africa captain Temba Bavuma, who was dismissed for a duck. Quinton De Kock, Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen all fell shortly after with remarkably low strike rates for such a high-scoring World Cup.
Suddenly, the Aussies had South Africa at 4/24 after 12 overs and completely on the back foot. After a rain delay caused a break in play, David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen delivered a crucial partnership for the Proteas, with Miller’s performance in particular breathing some life into his side after their poor start.
However, things fell apart once again when part-timer Head ripped the partnership apart with two wickets in as many balls to get momentum back on Australia’s side.
Although the pair proved a two-man army, they still managed to help forge a defendable total of 212, which seemed like a far cry earlier in the innings.
Aussie openers Head and David Warner got their side off to an ideal start, forming a 60-run partnership in the first six overs, a stark contrast to the Proteas’ start. The duo were ruthless in punishing any deliveries with pace and width, before Markram got the crucial breakthrough for South Africa, clean bowling Warner.
The pressure suddenly flipped onto Australia, with Mitch Marsh falling to an outstanding soaring catch from van der Dussen at point. The wickets began to fall at an alarming rate for Australia, and the once near-certain target became tougher for the Aussies.
Joel Inglis and Steve Smith both played steadying roles for the Aussies with calming knocks, but when both dismissed and Australia’s tail end was forced to make the final 20 runs, it was game on. Pace bowlers Cummins and Starc had to withstand both pace and spin from the Proteas, likely knowing they were the last genuine chance of getting to the total.
Patience was the key for the Aussies, with Starc and Cummins waiting for their opportunities rather than looking to actively create. Australia’s captain Cummins sealed the result by piercing through off-side for four to reach the total and book a spot on Sunday night.
Head was deservingly named Player of the Match, hurting South Africa with both bat and ball to finish with 62 (48) and 2/21 (5). He was the difference in both innings and bounced back after an underwhelming start to the tournament.
Australia will now take on the host nation on Sunday night in the ODI World Cup, with the first ball to be bowled at 7:30pm AEST.
South Africa 212 (49.4) def. by Australia 7/215 (47.2)
South Africa – Miller 101 (116), Klaasen 47 (48), Coetzee 19 (39)
Australia – Starc 3/34 (10), Cummins 3/51 (10), Hazlewood 2/12 (8)
Australia – Head 62 (48), Smith 30 (62), Warner 29 (18)
South Africa – Shamsi 2/42 (10), Coetzee 2/47 (9), Markram 1/23 (8)