One always secretly keeps one’s fingers crossed that things could turn out differently, but old habit is the Proteas’ Achilles heel in World Cup play-offs.
Australia clinched a nail-biting battle with three wickets in the 48th over on Thursday at Eden Gardens to qualify for the final against India.
On a cloudy day in Kolkata, the South Africans’ strong batting order struggled. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood set Temba Bavuma and co on fire and before you could blink, the score was 24/4.
Later, Travis Head’s spin bowling also turned off the batting team’s momentum tap and South Africa were eventually bowled out for 212 runs.
Hopelessly too few runs for a World Cup semi-final.
Had it not been for David Miller’s brilliant 101-run innings, things would have looked even more bleak.
After that, Head and David Warner pulled away like two Australian express trains and enjoyed an opening partnership of 60 runs at ten runs per over.
However, the Eden Gardens batting line was cut out for spin bowling and Aiden Markram got rid of Warner first, after which Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi frolicked on it.
They were able to stop the Aussie attack in its tracks for a while, while a fiery Gerald Coetzee with renewed fire and passion forced the Protea turnaround door open a little.
But Pat Cummins was there when Glenn Maxwell played his remarkable innings against Afghanistan and the Aussie captain now also remained cool in a pressure cooker situation to score the winning runs for his team.
Can one the choke-word say?
There will probably be quite a few supporters who use it to their heart’s content today and early in the Protea innings there was indeed a well-known scratchiness in the throat.
But the South Africans desperately wanted to win – just look at Miller’s innings and Coetzee and co’s passion after every wicket.
Sometimes a team only loses a cricket match. It is just a shame that this had to happen to South Africa.
- Summary of the scorecard:
South Africa 212/10 in 49.4 overs: David Miller 101, Heinrich Klaasen 47 and Mitchell Starc 3/34.
Australia 215/7 in 47.2 overs: Travis Head 62, Steven Smith 30 and Tabraiz Shamsi 2/42.