A magnificent century by Shai Hope has powered West Indies to a thrilling four-wicket victory over England in the first of three one-day internationals…
It’s happened again to South Africa. Once more, the semifinals proved to be the ceiling for the Proteas at the Cricket World Cup.
And once again, the knockout blow was delivered by Australia, whose ability to rise to the occasion on the biggest stage in limited-overs cricket remains unmatched — and in such contrast to South Africa’s failings.
There was no choking — the word that is synonymous, perhaps harshly, with South Africa at World Cups — in this tense three-wicket loss at Eden Gardens on Thursday.
Yet it was still a fifth semi-final elimination in this tournament – after 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015. Three of those painful exits have now come at the hands of Australia.
In 2007, the collapse came early in St. Lucia when the Proteas fell to 5-27 after choosing to bat, and eventually lost by seven wickets.
And there were some similarities to 2007 in Thursday’s painful loss as they slumped to 4-24 amid brilliant swing and seam bowling from Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
David Miller, with a determined innings of 101, guided the team to 212 all out, but it needed a near-flawless performance in the field to hold back the Australians. That didn’t happen.
Pacer Marco Jansen bowled three wides in a four-ball span in the third over of the reply, and Kagiso Rabada gave David Warner a free hit because of a no-ball — and saw the veteran opener use it to smash him for a second straight six.
Travis Head was dropped by both sub fielder Reeza Hendricks and Heinrich Klaasen in the space of 14 balls. Four overs later, de Kock, the wicketkeeper, couldn’t hold onto Steve Smith’s edge off spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. There were four dropped catches in total.
It made the late-innings comeback all the more infuriating for South Africa’s fans as spinners Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj tied down Australia’s batters on a pitch that spun plenty.
“It was a bit of dogfight,” captain Temba Bavuma said. “Looking at the result of the game, the way we started with the bat and the ball was probably the turning point and where we lost it quite badly.”
In the end, South Africa will rue the fact that their powerful batting line-up — one that struck fear into opponents for much of the group stage — failed to fire.
“They were outstanding for a large part of the game today and thoroughly deserved the victory,” Bavuma said of Australia.
“I thought Hazlewood and Starc were ruthless. They exploited every bit of advantage that was presented to them and really put us under pressure. When you are 4-24, you are always going to struggle to get a competitive total.”