HEARTBREAK AGAIN FOR PROTEAS
Amidst triumphant embraces and victorious cheers, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc secured Australia's spot in the World Cup Final showdown against India. Their astute tactical prowess at the tail-end ensured a thrilling clash at Ahmedabad’s Modi mega-bowl, marking a deserving victory over South Africa.
In a tumultuous day-night encounter on a capricious pitch, Cummins and his squad took charge, restricting their opponents to 212 and chasing down the target with 16 balls to spare. However, the riveting match was peppered with stumbling blocks, witnessed by a crowd of 48,000 locals, leaving Temba Bavuma's South African team in heartbreak.
The Proteas faced early setbacks as Australia's initial strikes were followed by a magnificent century from David Miller, injecting hope into an otherwise challenging situation. Yet, despite their valiant effort with the ball, overcoming notable batters like Travis Head and David Warner, South Africa's dream faltered, marking their seventh exit at the semi-final stage in ODI and T20 World Cups.
The age-old debate on 'choking' surfaced, promptly dismissed by South Africa's head coach, Rob Walter, who refuted any notion of succumbing under pressure. The experience and composure of Australia's champions from 2015 were evident, particularly in the calm resolve of Mitchell Starc, who alongside his captain, sealed the deal for the Aussies.
Bavuma's decision to bat first for South Africa proved challenging as Starc and Josh Hazlewood stifled the top order, keeping the Proteas at bay for a substantial period. Despite a resilient stand by Miller and Heinrich Klaasen, South Africa struggled under Australia's persistent pressure, with the latter falling victim to a masterstroke from Australia's part-time spinner, Travis Head.
Miller's heroic century kept the contest alive, yet unfortunate dismissals of key players, including Coetzee and himself, marred South Africa's chances. Despite glimpses of hope, missed catches and failed reviews plagued South Africa's efforts, ultimately paving the way for Australia's determined victory.
The same old questions will be raised about the Proteas decision making including playing an out of form skipper, who by his own admission was not fully fit. Other issues would be the decision to bat first in gloomy conditions and failing to throw a punch in the first ten overs. Perhaps a team that are not confident to bat second are deserving of the World Champions title, however their fight should not be questioned.
In the end Australia were too strong and made the correct decision, at the right time. They took full advantage of the conditions and were worthy victors. Starc and Cummins exhibited nerves of steel in the final stretch, securing Australia's place in the World Cup final, where they aim to claim the coveted title for the sixth time. For South Africa, the quest to reach the pinnacle of success remains an elusive pursuit.
Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Boyers
[Submitted by Kevin Rademeyer]