Australia scamper into another World Cup final after South African scare. Indian juggernaut looms for Australia’s next challenge. – BY TREVINE RODRIGO IN MELBOURNE. (eLanka Sports editor).
© ICC 2023 : Photo Courtesy of ICC
Australia continued to stifle South Africa’s aspirations to progress beyond a semi -final of a World Cup as they scampered into another final against a dominant India.
South Africa harbours bitter memories of being eliminated before the big dance on several occasions, and Australia has been their biggest stumbling block. They just exerted more pain on a hapless nemesis.
They did not go without a fight though sending shock waves through the Australian camp when they grabbed 5 for 137 before Steve Smith, Josh Inglis and later skipper Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc steadied the ship to see Australia home.
But it was Travis Head who set the pace for Australia’s win with an amazing knock of 62 off 48 balls with 2 sixers and 9 fours.
His Player-of-the-match award though lacked the merit it deserves as David Miller’s back-to-the-wall effort in which he battled bravely for 101 off 116 balls with 5 sixers and 8 fours definitely warranted credit due to the fact that without it, the contest would have been lopsided.
It was a game of mixed fortunes as the usually belligerent South Africans dug themselves into a hole batting first, and were unable to extricate themselves, as Australia’s three-prong pace attack went to work on them in lethal fashion.
Australia’s fielding was the obvious difference as they chased down and hung on to every chance they got. The ground fielding was at its brilliant best led by some blinding stops from David Warner and the rest.
The South Africans were a contrast on the field, and could well have sprung an upset if they held onto their chances.
The Proteas, thanks to a fighting century from David Miller, were able to muster an under par 212 on a wicket that was two paced and gave the batters little assistance for free stroke play.
Swing and plenty of turn for the spinners made batting a huge challenge.
Josh Hazelwood, 2 for 12, Mitchell Stark, 3 for 34 and Pat Cummins, 3 for51, wreaked havoc on South Africa’s strong batting and at one stage 200 appeared a long shot. Australia’s pace battery accounted for 8 wickets and spinner Travis Head took two. Hazelwood was miserly in his 8 overs.
Miller gallantly stood between disaster and providing a reasonable total to defend, which the fighting South Africans fought back well to make it a close contest.
The long history of disappointment will haunt the South Africans who will reminisce their early promise before ending ‘so close and yet so far’.
Obviously much in control, Australia found it tough going as South Africa desperately made a play for defending their total. They certainly did not go down without a fight removing most of the top order before conceding a three wicket defeat with 16 balls remaining.
South Africa’s pace attack lacked the same penetration as Australia. But their spinners came to the party with Keshav Maharaj, Shamsy and Coetzee rocking Australia’s batting before the tailendenders saw Australia home.
Austrlian skipper Pat Cummins, and Mitchell Stark, hung on to see them home to another final after a shaky start to their campaign.
They now face the unbeaten Indians who nervously believe they are invincible but are vulnerable to the weight of expectation from a fanatical home crowd.
If 2011 is a reflection of India’s ability to think outside the box and produce the unthinkable, it seems destiny is on their side.
Write off Australia at your peril though.