Australia advance to the Cricket World Cup final after beating South Africa to set up a showdown with hosts India
- Australia have advanced to the Cricket World Cup final
- Pat Cummins’ side defeated South Africa in Kolkata
- They will face hosts India in the final on Sunday
Australia crept into Sunday’s World Cup final against India after winning a low-scoring thriller against South Africa at Eden Gardens by three wickets.
Chasing 213 after a superb century from David Miller had helped the South Africans recover from 24 for four and 116 for six, Australia’s batsmen took it in turns to throw away their wicket in front of a crowd of nearly 48,000.
But, on a lavishly turning track, their eighth-wicket pair of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins held their nerve to take the Australians into a record eighth final with 16 balls to spare.
For South Africa, whose big hitting has been one of the features of this tournament, it meant yet more heartbreak in a World Cup knockout. In truth, they never had quite enough runs to trouble their opponents after a disastrous start against Starc and the metronomic Josh Hazlewood.
Having admitted at the toss that he was still struggling with a hamstring niggle, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma was caught behind for a duck in Starc’s first over, before Quinton de Kock – with four centuries in this tournament behind him – lost patience and skyed to mid-on, where Cummins took a superb backpedalling catch.
Australia have advanced to the final of the Cricket World Cup
South Africa won the toss and bowled but paid for that poor decision in Kolkata
Captain Pat Cummins celebrates after taking a catch as South Africa fell to 24-4
Starc then had Aiden Markram caught at backward point for 10, and it was 24 for four when Rassie van der Dussen poked Hazlewood to Steve Smith to end a strokeless 31-ball six. At that point, with the run-rate grinding to a halt, South Africa were in danger of reawakening old accusations that they choke on the big occasion.
Miller and Heinrich Klaasen put on a restorative 95, only for occasional off-spinner Travis Head to strike twice in two balls in his first over – Klaasen bowled for 47 by a straight one, Marco Jansen trapped on the crease for a golden duck.
But Miller took the innings by the scruff on a sluggish surface, and Gerald Coetzee stuck by him as they took the total towards respectability. Miller reached a stunning hundred with a pulled six off Cummins, and a total of 212 – only one fewer than both sides made during the famous tied semi-final at Edgbaston in 1999 – felt like a basis for negotiation.
While Head and David Warner were putting on 60 in six overs to kickstart Australia’s reply, it looked as if the game might be over early. But Markram, another part-time off-spinner, bowled Warner for 29 with his first ball, before van der Dussen pulled off a stunning catch in the covers to see off Mitchell Marsh for a duck.
Even so, at 106 for two, with time on their side, Australia seemed to be cruising. But Keshav Maharaj, South Africa’s world-class left-arm spinner, bowled Head through the gate for 62 with his first ball, and the mood changed.
David Miller steadied the ship with a strong century but it was not enough for the Proteas
Travis Head scored a half century as Australia crept towards South Africa’s 212 total
First Marnus Labuschagne missed a reverse sweep against Tabraiz Shamsi, a left-arm spinner of the less orthodox kind, and was not spared by DRS. Then Glenn Maxwell, a recent double-centurion against Afghanistan, missed a horrible hoick at the same bowler and lost his leg stump.
And it was 174 for six when Steve Smith, who had played patiently for 30, miscued a slog off Coetzee. For perhaps the first time in the evening, South Africa had inched ahead, only for Australia’s Leeds-born wicketkeeper Josh Inglis to take them to within touching distance with a composed 28.
When he was bowled by a pumped-up Coetzee, the Australians still needed 20 – but captain Cummins joined Starc to take their team over the line, and condemn South Africa to a seventh semi-final defeat out of seven in the two World Cup formats.
Australia, who have won their last eight games, will now face India, who have won 10 out of 10. At Ahmedabad on Sunday, something will have to give.
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