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South Africa faces further semi-final agony as Australia wins thriller

With Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins embracing in relief after securing a World Cup final match against India on Sunday, their tail-ends had secured a meeting. It was difficult not to feel sorry for the most recent group of South Africans to collapse at the penultimate hurdle.

Australia’s triumph by three wickets merited the opportunity to face the unbeaten hosts at the Modi Mega Bowl in Ahmedabad. Cummins and his men generated the majority of the action over the course of two innings on a haphazard, utilised pitch, slicing through 212 runs with the ball and securing the target with 16 deliveries remaining.

Setbacks for South Africa

On the contrary, the final score indicates that there were setbacks during this choppy, cyclonic day-night match. Even though Temba Bavuma and his devastated players may wish to banish it from their memories, the exhibition match was a riveting knockout that was witnessed by a crowd of 48,000 locals and a small number of travelling supporters.

And this was agony for the Proteas: Australia took the lead early on, and only a muscular David Miller’s masterful century provided a sniff. At a score of 24 for four in the twelfth over of the match, Miller’s 101 runs off 118 deliveries provided his bowlers with fodder and a nostalgic memento for the rest of us. In 1999, both teams scored 213 points in that renowned, tie-breaking semi-final at Edgbaston.

South Africa’s Struggles

Despite rallying with the ball and overcoming the flashing blades of Travis Head (62 runs off 48 balls) and David Warner (29 runs off 18 balls), as well as Tabraiz Shamsi’s wrist-spin and Gerald Coetzee’s pace, which added five more holes in the Australian hull, this resulted in South Africa’s seventh elimination in the semi-final stage of ODI and T20 World Cups.

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Unsurprisingly, this prompted the age-old concern of suffocation, and in response, their head coach, Rob Walter, apathetically retreated following the setback. “A choke is losing a game in which you have a chance to win,” Walter stated at the press conference following the match. “We immediately fell behind the eight-ball mark.” “It was in no way approaching a choke.”

Starc’s Composure and Experience

On that fateful day, experience seemed to have spoken, as Australia was accompanied by five World Cup champions from the 2015 class. One of them was Starc, whose campaign was relatively subdued in comparison to his previous impressive figures of three for 34. Additionally, Starc exhibited composure in the final moments as he and his commander chiselled off the last 20 runs.

South Africa had initially been unable to escape a canary yellow cage after Bavuma won the toss despite shrugging off a recent hamstring complaint. Both commanders desired to bat on the recycled pitch; however, clouds quickly engulfed the Proteas on a muggy, overcast afternoon – the periphery of a weather system in the Bay of Bengal.

Bowling Dominance and Struggles

Notwithstanding the presence of two white Kookaburra balls and the coloured attire, this match resembled a Test match in the middle, as Starc and Josh Hazlewood dismissed the top four with 61 dot balls, which is equivalent to ten maidens. A previously aggressive South Africa side required fifty-two deliveries to score their first boundary; by that time, Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Bavuma, and Rassie van der Dussen had all left.

Amidst this suffocation was a brilliant, backpedalling capture by Cummins that propelled De Kock in his direction. This forced two middle-order power-hitters, Heinrich Klaasen and Miller, to rebuild stoically. They amassed 84 runs in a stand amidst forty minutes of rain before pressing back with some ferocious blows off the misfiring Adam Zampa.

Cummins’ Strategic Brilliance

However, Cummins recognised the shift and executed a brilliant strategy by utilising Head’s part-time tweakers for the 31st over. Klaasen was removed for 44 with one run remaining, whereas Marco Jansen’s day began abysmal as he was dismissed for one off the first delivery. South Africa was once again in trouble at 119 for six, and despite failing to score a hat-trick, Head’s trucker moustache supported an ebullient grin.

Miller deserves credit for sustaining the competition, securing assistance from Coetzee at No. 8, and surpassing his century milestone by delivering Cummins a fifth six. Both players harboured regrets, with Coetzee walking for a caught behind off Cummins on 19 after the bouncer barely touched his bicep, and Miller dropping the ball in the 48th over following his milestone.

Missed Opportunities for South Africa

They were not isolated. Following substantial efforts by Warner and Head to cut into the target, South Africa responded with eight runs. And, with the exception of Van der Dussen’s mesmerising catch at cover to remove Mitch Marsh from Kagiso Rabada, it was the spinners that caused the most difficulty. However, South Africa’s case weakened as they burned two reviews and missed five difficult receptions.

Not to mention the towel was never discarded. Shamsi reduced Glenn Maxwell and Marnus Labuschagne to 137 for five, whereas Coetzee refused to surrender, inducing late hysteria with his dismissals of Yorkshire-born Josh Inglis for 28 and Steve Smith for 30.

Starc and Cummins Seal the Win

However, Starc and Cummins used the remaining 20 runs with resolve, securing Australia a spot in the World Cup final for the eighth time in men’s 50-over cricket and the opportunity to win the championship for the sixth time. The challenge for South Africa continues to be merely reaching its destination.

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