Recent Match Report – Australia vs South Africa 2nd Semi-Final 2023/24

Australia 215 for 7 (Head 62, Shamsi 2-42, Coetzee 2-47) beat South Africa 212 (Miller 101, Klaasen 47, Starc 3-34, Hazlewood 2-12) by three wickets

Yawn. Australia are in another World Cup final.

Except, this wasn’t Steve Waugh’s mentality monsters or Ricky Ponting’s Invincibles. These men were fallible. They almost didn’t make it. South Africa refused to let them.

Eerily enough, the target to win was also the score both of these immensely watchable sides had put up in what was for a very long time the greatest ODI ever played. 213.
This classic, like the one in 1999, owed much to the spinners. Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi weren’t turning the ball so much as helping it develop a mind of its own. They operated in tandem for 16 overs, producing a dot once every two balls, a false shot once every four balls and almost the same number of wickets as boundaries – 3 vs 4.

The men they dismissed were Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne and extremely crucially, Glenn Maxwell for a duck.

Australia were 137 for 5.

How did this game come alive?

South Africa had recorded their lowest 10-over score in 15 years of ODI cricket. 18 for 2. They came into this semi-final scoring that many runs in a single over 14 times. The tournament’s most fearsome batting line-up was shut down like a computer that caught a virus. Only David Miller was immune. He raised 101 for 1 from his end. The others collapsed to 100 for 9 from theirs.

Things didn’t get much better in the chase either. South Africa needed 52 balls to get their first boundary. Australia needed two. Marco Jansen leaked 12 runs off one delivery. Reeza Hendricks dropped Head on 40 and watched him hit a hat-trick of fours – one of those was a drop too – to get to his half-century. More than half the score they had to defend had vanished in the 15th over.

The ghosts of knockouts past had all arrived at Eden Gardens with pop corn and everything.

Shasmi, though, told them to bleep all the way off. He was the one who made Labuschagne look very, very silly in the 16th over, an lbw shout turned down even though his leg was literally before the wicket. He was the one who knocked Maxwell’s leg stump back, a long hop that suddenly morphed into perhaps the single most important delivery of this game, sneaking below the bat that had last week conjured a double-hundred to recover a lost cause and into the leg stump.

Shamsi rounded the whole square in celebration. Temba Bavuma kept better control of his feet but his eyes were alight.

The ghosts of knockouts past had begun to flee when Josh Inglis walked in.

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