“They exploited every bit of advantage that was presented to them with the conditions and they really put us under pressure. When you’re 4 for 24, you’re always going to struggle to get a competitive total.”
The scene is set for the final of the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup in India, with the host nation set to face Australia in the championship match on Sunday.
On Thursday, Australia reached the final of the World Cup for a record-extending eighth time after a three-wicket win against South Africa in the second semi-final that was played in Kolkata.
The Proteas won the toss at Eden Gardens, however, before the end of the 12th over, South Africa were in heaps of trouble at 24/4 with Aiden Markram’s 10-runs being the only double-figure score from a top-four batter.
David Miller smashed 101-runs to help steady the ship for South Africa, while Heinrich Klaasen chipped in with 47. The dismissal of Klaasen by the halted the Proteas fightback and they were ultimately bowled out for a mere 212-runs, which was at least 30 to 40 runs short.
Josh Hazlewood was simply outstanding with the new ball for Australia with figures of 2/12 in 8-overs, while Mitchell Starc took 3/34.
David Warner and Travis Head got Australia off to a blistering start with the bat as the pair put on a 60-run first wicket partnership in 6.1 overs, with the latter going on to score 62.
The former captain Steve Smith played a steady knock of 30-runs, but the South African spinners in Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi along with Aiden Markram gave the Proteas a real chance.
Ultimately, 212 was always going to be too little and the five-time champions reached the target with 16 balls to spare.
The Proteas captain, Temba Bavuma, said despite the defeat they showed a lot of character and fight.
“The conditions, combined with the quality of the attack – I thought Josh Hazlewood as well as Mitchell Starc upfront were ruthless,” said Bavuma.
“They exploited every bit of advantage that was presented to them with the conditions and they really put us under pressure. When you’re 4 for 24, you’re always going to struggle to get a competitive total.
“I think our character came through there, that bit of resilience we always speak about, also that dogfight,” said Bavuma.
“Looking at the game – the way that we started with the bat and the ball was the turning point where we lost it quite badly there, and from there we always had to play catch up to get back into the game.”
Hopefully, the Proteas will be able to go at least one step further in 2027 when the World Cup gets played in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Australia remains on course for a record-extending sixth Cricket World Cup title and they know it will be tough and pretty hostile on Sunday against the host, India, who in turn are gunning for a third title.
The Australian left-arm seamer, Mitchell Starc, who played his role with a brilliant spell with the new ball upfront and stubborn batting, said while his form at the World Cup wasn’t to his liking, he was well pleased with his effort when it mattered most.
“It’s probably not been the tournament I would have liked from the get go but nice to step up in a big game,” said Starc.
“I think our power play was probably what got us on our way and there were other key moments through the day with bat and ball, but to start the game like that with Joshie and I,
“Power play wickets have probably been not our strong suit through the tournament so it’s nice to have a power play of what two for 18 or something like that so the way Josh bowled throughout to finish two for 12 was incredible.
“Then Trav with bat and ball. I think a lot of guys in the field as well, the way Davey stepped up in the field and led by example.
“You could probably name everyone under different circumstances throughout the day to really step up in a big game.”
Sunday’s big final in Ahmedabad gets underway at 10:30.