In a heart-pounding thriller, Australia beat South Africa on Thursday for the third time in a semi-final, booking their flight to Ahmedabad for the ultimate showdown against India.
After restricting the Proteas to 212 at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, the five-time victors overcame major batting jolts before overpowering South Africa, sealing their eighth ICC Cricket World Cup final berth.
South African Innings
Australia seemed on track for a dominant performance in Kolkata as their new-ball bowlers tore through South Africa’s top order when the Proteas chose to bat first in overcast conditions.
Runs were incredibly hard to come by as South Africa slipped to 24/4 in the 12th over, with Temba Bavuma (0), Quinton de Kock (3), Aiden Markram (10), and Rassie van der Dussen (6) falling cheaply to Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
A rain delay allowed South Africa to regroup, and they steadily rebuilt their innings through the middle overs, with Heinrich Klaasen (47) and Miller ensuring a competitive total. Miller departed for 101 from 116 balls, giving South Africa’s bowlers a defendable total, finishing at 212 all out with two balls of their allotted 50 overs remaining.
Starc claimed 3/34 from ten, Cummins 3/51 from 9.4 overs. However, the standout bowlers for Australia were Hazlewood, taking a remarkable 2/12 from eight overs, and Travis Head, bagging 2/21 from five, including the crucial wicket of Klaasen.
Travis Head and David Warner had a strong start to the chase, scoring briskly in the first six overs against Kagiso Rabada and Marco Jansen, reaching 60/0. However, the introduction of spin saw Warner departing for 29 off Aiden Markram’s first ball.
A stunning catch from Rassie van der Dussen off Rabada removed Mitchell Marsh for a duck. But Travis Head’s rapid half-century kept Australia in control.
The game shifted as spinners applied pressure during the middle overs. The game looked to be drifting towards an inevitable conclusion until the spinners heaped on the pressure in the middle overs.
Maharaj provided the decisive breakthrough right at the start of his spell, cleaning up Head for a 48-ball 62.
And Tabraiz Shamsi got into the action to give South Africa real hope, removing Marnus Labuschagne (18) and Glenn Maxwell (1).
The topsy-turvy game again turned back in Australia’s favor as a drifting spell of play saw Steve Smith and Josh Inglis accumulate patiently to pull their side closer to the target.
But Smith’s patience ran out in dramatic fashion when he flailed at a delivery from Gerald Coetzee and skied a catch that was well held by the keeper, departing for 30 from 62 balls.
Another steady partnership edged Australia closer to their target, but South Africa remained in with a chance when Coetzee cleaned up Josh Inglis for 28, leaving Australia’s bowlers with the task of finishing the job with the bat.
Mitchell Starc (16* off 38) held his nerve along with skipper Pat Cummins (14* off 29) to get Australia over the line, as they chased down the target in 47.2 overs.
It is important to note the South African fielders were a bit sloppy on the field as they missed five catching chances, two of which were dropped by their wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock.
Australia will now meet Team India for the final scheduled on November 19 (Sunday) at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.