Australia have dropped top spot at the Cricket World Cup on the final day of action as they fell to South Africa by ten runs in a thriller at Old Trafford.
As India handed Sri Lanka a beating in Leeds, Australia found themselves out of the contest on multiple occasions against a spirited Proteas side, and while they took it to the last over, poor starts in both innings simply left the Aussies too much to do.
On one of the best pitches for batting we have seen all tournament in Old Trafford, Aaron Finch lost his seventh toss in nine attempts, with South Africa batting first and getting off to a blinder.
While they have struggled for runs during the tournament, Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock had no such issues at the top of the order, although they were assisted by some woeful bowling from the Australian quicks in the early going.
By the end of the powerplay, only the introduction of Nathan Lyon had brought with it any control and South Africa had motored along to 0 for 73 from the first ten overs.
Lyon would soon get rid of both openers though, and it helped to put the skids on South Africa for a period of time.
While there was some improved bowling from the quicks, they were still away off their best, and a classy century from Faf du Plessis, as well as 95 from Rassie van der Russen – who was out on the final ball of the innings – boosted South Africa to a formidable 325.
Mitchell Starc’s final spell with the ball got Australia back into the contest, however, they couldn’t capitalise on their reasonable finish with the ball, as a week off obviously messed with form.
Aaron Finch was gone in just the second over, before Usman Khawaja retired hurt with a hamstring complaint and Steve Smith was out LBW all within the opening ten overs.
David Warner was the rock of the Aussie innings, and while he appeared to find some support from Marcus Stoinis, it was slow support, and when Stoinis got himself out before Glenn Maxwell followed shortly afterwards to a good short ball from Kagiso Rabada, Australia looked to be right out of the match.
However, Warner joined with the in-form Alex Carey and the pair set about scoring the 207 runs still required from 25.5 overs.
Warner would go past his century, eventually falling for 122 from 117 balls, while Carey would depart for 85 from 69 with the required run rate a smidge over ten.
Both Warner and Carey were outstanding with the stick as they tried to rescue Australia, however, just couldn’t take the game deep enough, and despite some big hitting late in the piece from Starc, Australia fell just ten runs short of topping the table.
It means they will now hit the road back to Edgbaston for a semi-final against the old enemy England, while India will arrive in Old Trafford tomorrow alongside New Zealand, with those two sides set to clash on Tuesday for the first spot in the final.
Australia have more than just form questions to answer heading into the semi-finals, with Usman Khawaja’s hamstring injury, a potential fitness issue to Mitchell Starc and likely side strain for Marcus Stoinis all putting questions over the squad, which has already lost Shaun Marsh to a broken arm during the week.
Australia’s semi-final against England will be played on Thursday, from 7:30pm (AEST).
South Africa: 6/325 (50) (Faf du Plessis 100, Rassie van der Russen 95, Quinton de Kock 52, Nathan Lyon 2/53, Mitchell Starc 2/59) defeat Australia: 10/315 (49.5) (David Warner 122, Alex Carey 85, Kagiso Rabada 3/56) by 10 runs.
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