David Miller hit a defiant century as South Africa recovered from a nightmare start to post 212 against Australia in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 semi-final in Kolkata.
South Africa’s top order were put under enormous pressure in helpful bowling conditions after the Proteas opted to bat first in the semi-final.
Runs were extraordinarily hard to come by as South Africa slipped to 24/4 in the 12th over, with Temba Bavuma (0), Quinton de Kock (3), Aiden Markram (10) and Rassie van der Dussen (6) all falling cheaply as Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood turned the screw.
A rain delay offered South Africa a chance to regroup, and they steadily rebuilt through the middle overs, with Heinrich Klaasen (47) and Miller ensuring that the semi-final at least stayed alive.
Miller departed for 101 from 116 balls as the innings headed towards its close, with his brave effort giving South Africa’s bowlers a total to defend, with the Proteas finishing 212 all out with two balls of the allocated 50 overs remaining.
Starc finished with 3/34 from ten, Cummins with 3/51 from 9.4 overs. But the headline-grabbers with the ball for Australia were Hazlewood, who took a remarkable 2/12 from eight overs, and Travis Head, who bagged 2/21 from five, including the crucial wicket of Klaasen.
Mitchell Starc struck with the new ball and accounted for the South Africa skipper for a duck in the very first over. Extracting good movement and bounce, Starc and Josh Hazlewood made the scoring a tough prospect in the early overs.
And when Quinton de Kock tried to take on Hazlewood in the sixth over, he ended up ballooning a catch towards the mid-on region. Pat Cummins held on to a brilliant take.
The Proteas were also challenged by some great fielding from Australia, especially the veteran David Warner, who wasn't shy of throwing himself around the field. A big task lay ahead for Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram.
However, Starc and Cummins proved to be too good in these conditions. Markram was dismissed while trying to pierce through the point, while van der Dussen fell in the very next over when he edged one to the second slip. South Africa were four down before rain arrived to halt play.
After resumption, attacking play from David Miller lifted the Proteas effort. A number of fours and sixes flew from his willow, even as the South Africa rate picked up. He got good support from Heinrich Klaasen, who hit a couple of lusty blows against Adam Zampa to get going. Proteas seemed to be building up towards a fighting total before Travis Head turned the game around with his part-time spin.
The tweaker cleaned up Klaasen (47) after the batter missed one that came in completely. Off the very next ball, he had Marco Jansen trapped lbw for a duck.
South Africa’s chances of reaching a competitive score rested on Miller’s chances, and he delivered with a defiant century.
The number six and Gerald Coetzee put on 53 runs before Coetzee departed caught behind off Cummins for a 39-ball 19, although replays suggested that he would have survived had he reviewed the decision.
But Miller continued in style, bringing up his hundred with a six off the Australian skipper, only for the centurion to fall two balls later and miss out on the chance of a late flurry with two and a half overs of the innings remaining.
A big Kagiso Rabada maximum helped boost South Africa at the death, but Cummins wrapped things up when he removed Rabada for 10, with South Africa finishing 212 all out.
Earlier, Temba Bavuma decided to bat first in overcast conditions. He believed setting up a good total would serve them well at Eden Gardens. Tabraiz Shamsi made it back into the side at the cost of Lungi Ngidi.
For Australia, Marcus Stoinis and Sean Abbott were out, and Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Starc were back to the setup.
An interesting contest brews up in Kolkata, as familiar rivals, Australia and South Africa face off to book a place in the World Cup finals.
Both sides have shown great form in the tournament. Australia overcame a sluggish start to win seven games in a row, and have gone from strength to strength. They’ve shown exemplary mental strength, as displayed in their memorable win against Afghanistan in Chennai. Their batting core is firing, while the bowling led by Adam Zampa has been ever dependable.
Barring a couple of jarring defeats, South Africa have looked like one of the most assured sides in the tournament. They’ve had their issues while chasing but showed the tenacity to overcome that in a win against Afghanistan.
While South Africa got the better of Australia in Lucknow at an earlier stage in the tournament, they’ll be aware that a more charged-up opponent will be up against them in the semi-finals.