Proteas hoping it’s fifth time lucky in World Cup semi-final
The South African team are one step away from playing in their first World Cup final, where India or New Zealand await.
South Africa’s Quinton de Kock will be a key figure in the semi-final match against Australia. Picture: Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images
South Africa insist they will not be burdened by scarring from their chequered record in World Cup knockout matches when they face old rivals Australia on Thursday for a spot in the final.
The Proteas have made four semi-final appearances in the showpiece — in 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2015 — but have fallen to defeat every time, twice losing to Australia.
In 1999, they lost to Australia after a dramatic tie at Edgbaston which saw their rivals go through due to a better group stage finish.
Eight years later, South Africa went down by seven wickets after being bundled out for just 149 at St Lucia.
Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, however, could be the stage for redemption for South Africa who made the semi-finals by winning seven of their nine league matches.
They have also been racking up impressive totals including the highest score in World Cup history of 428 against Sri Lanka.
The Proteas have won their last four meetings with Australia, including a 134-run thrashing in the league stage in Lucknow four weeks ago.
“There isn’t a lot of mystery about what’s lying ahead,” said fast bowler Gerald Coetzee who has claimed 18 wickets in seven matches.
Five-time champions Australia are coming off seven straight wins at the tournament.
That run included Glenn Maxwell’s one-man rescue mission when his unbeaten 201 led Australia to victory from the brink of defeat at 91-7 against Afghanistan.
Rassie van der Dussen, who made 76 in South Africa’s concluding group win over Afghanistan to take his tournament total to 442 runs, also shrugged off past disappointments.
“I was 10 years old (in 1999),” said Van der Dussen. “In that year they had a really good chance to win the World Cup. I think we have a good chance as well.”
Leg-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi insisted the past “doesn’t matter one bit”.
“We’re a different group of players. Before we got to the World Cup, nobody said that we’d be in the semi-final and here we are,” he told South Africa’s Independent media.
“That’s what propels this team – instead of feeling pressure, we see it as an opportunity to do something special. No South African men’s team has been in the World Cup final and that for us is very exciting because it is an opportunity to do something that no other team has done.”
Bavuma fitness worry
Australia opener Travis Head was four when the drama of Edgbaston was played out in 1999 so prefers to focus on the challenge ahead.
“The boys have been invested for a long time so if we’re going to spend that much time here we might as well try and go the whole way,” said Head.
“I’m sure everyone has thought about that (making the final).
“It hasn’t really been spoken about as a group, but we know what’s at the end of this tournament and what’s up for grabs.”
The fitness of South Africa captain Temba Bavuma remains a concern after he picked up a hamstring injury against Afghanistan.
But Bavuma, who missed two group games through illness, is expected to play after he batted in the nets at Eden Gardens.
South African batting has stood out at the World Cup.
Opener Quinton de Kock’s 591 runs is second only to the 594 of Virat Kohli (before India’s semi-final Wednesday).
The 30-year-old De Kock, who will quit one-day internationals at the end of the tournament, has four centuries to his name. One of those came against Australia in the group stage.
But chasing remains an issue for the Proteas as their two defeats — against India and the Netherlands — both came batting second.
Australia have mastered chases.
After Maxwell’s epic knock against Afghanistan, Mitchell Marsh smashed an unbeaten 177 as Australia overhauled the 306 of Bangladesh with 32 balls and eight wickets to spare.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa’s 22 wickets has put him on top of the bowling charts.
Opening batsman David Warner is one run short of 500 including two centuries and a highest of 163 in the win over Pakistan.
Left-arm quick Mitchell Starc and Maxwell both missed the game with Afghanistan but are expected to return for what will be Australia’s eighth semi-final in 13 editions.
However, rain could play spoilsport with downpours forecast for Thursday as well as Friday’s reserve day.