Australia advanced to their eighth World Cup final after defeating South Africa by three wickets in difficult conditions at the Eden Gardens. The team led by Pat Cummins will now play the hosts, India, in the championship match on Sunday in Ahmedabad. However, for Temba Bavuma and company, it was another instance of being both close and far away in a semi-final—the fifth in which South Africa has failed to advance.
Temba Bavuma’s team chose to bat and was taken to 212 by David Miller’s sixth ODI century, but it was always going to be difficult to defend a low score. Australia had a blistering start, scoring 60 runs beyond the target in the first six overs. As a result, their slowing and collapse against spin in the middle overs was largely insignificant. To get Australia over the finish line, the experienced hands of skipper Cummins and Mitchell Starc gently nudged and nurtured 22 calm runs.
Maybe the way the teams batted in the first PowerPlay made a difference between them. Australia had just two balls to score their first boundary, but South Africa needed 53 balls to do so. And it came from the bat of Player of the Match Travis Head, who amassed 62 off 48 in an innings that may have effectively ended the chase well in advance of its completion. That came from Head, who in just two deliveries claimed the vital wickets of Heinrich Klaasen and Marco Jansen.
When their spinners were bowling, that was the only time South Africa seemed to be in the match. With a hint of spin, Aiden Markram knocked David Warner over with the first ball of spin that Temba Bavuma resorted to. Keshav Maharaj, the last bowler to enter the attack after being kept back until the fifteenth over, also struck with his opening delivery, sending the hard-hitting Head hurtling backward. Following Head’s removal, Tabraiz Shamsi and Maharaj put together a few quiet overs that eventually resulted in Marnus Labuschagne being out after he mishandled a reverse sweep against the legspinner and was hit in front. After that, Shamsi removed Glenn Maxwell from the game, bringing Australia’s score down to 137/5.
The goal was always to bowl out Australia, but South Africa was never able to capitalize on the half-chances. While Quinton de Kock was unable to hold onto two difficult catches behind the wickets, South Africa will regret Reeza Hendricks’ lost catch of Head at 40. The bowler that day, Gerald Coetzee, would later return and select Josh Inglis and Steve Smith, but South Africa was hindered the entire time by their meager run totals. However, Miller’s outstanding innings was the reason they had as many as they did, particularly from 24 for 4.