Australia reach their 8th men's ODI World Cup final

South Africa's semi-final hex continues

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What the hell was that?

I will try to recap, but my brain is fried. Basically, South Africa won the toss, got what they wanted, batted first, and the clouds of Kolkata came in to make Mitchell Starc back into the 2019 model. Then QDK played the stupidest shot ever, Hazlweood was really good, and the game was over. That was until Klaasen and Miller pulled it all back and had South Africa completely back into the game until Travis Head bowled a spell in five balls and suddenly only Miller was left. What an innings it was for the forgotten star of South Africa, just a shame no one could stick with him. Australia had to chase 213, which is what South Africa ended up with in 1999.

And weirdly the game followed that style, with the Aussie openers smashing the ball around like they were Herchelle Gibbs. Then instead of bringing on Shane Warne, they went to Aiden Markram, and he was Warne. But then they dropped and missed Head a bunch, and too many half-chances went the way of the Aussies. Only for Smith and Marnus to drag South Africa back into the game. With the ball sinning the Australians wobbled for a while, until Inglis and Smith looked comfortable, only for Smith to play the worst pull shot of his life. And a little while later Inglis was beaten for pace. And so Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins decided to crawl for victory. Almost oblivious to the fact they were going so slow, that they almost ran out of time. In the end, Australia chased with all the aplomb of an alcoholic steering a cruiseliner through a hurricane.

Was this an instant classic, or the messiest schoolyard fight two five-year-olds ever had? Was this the anti-choke? Were the Australians choking?

Travis Head with the ball (SAK)

Travis Head is not a bowler. Yet, his bowling probably had the most impact outside the opening spells of Starc and Hazlewood. He is a brilliant complement to Maxwell, who is a defensive spinner. We saw him really spin some balls today.

This is his ODI bowling record. I do like him as a part-timer, but he’s clearly not quite a proper option yet. Not too far off conceding a run-a-ball.

When he first came into the team, he used to bowl a lot. It's probably because Maxwell was injured at certain points. He’s bowled 30 overs this year, most of those in this World Cup which makes sense.

One reason that he was used today was because Zampa didn’t have a great day. He did not take a wicket and went for 55 runs in 7 overs. I think Shamsi bowled pretty well, so it wasn’t a wrist spinner thing necessarily. It looked like it could be a horrible mistake, and suddenly he was on a hattrick. If you told me that before the start of the game, I might have been a bit shocked.

South Africa’s horrendous start (JK)

South Africa won the toss and batted, which of course made loads of sense. So far in this tournament at Eden Gardens, new ball wickets have got at 40 in the first innings, it has been the second where it has been crazy.

And that follows in the match as well. Bowling in the first innings has been tough all the way through. Batting in the second innings, that is just awful all the way through. And then you factor in the South Africa of all this, and now they have to bat first.

But it was overcast, and that changed things a lot. Starc swung the ball and it seamed for Hazlewood. They were going to make some chances happen. Bavuma didn’t last long.

All Quinton de Kock had to do was stay in. The runs did not matter at that point. There are times to counterattack and even smart ways to do it. What QDK did was pub match slogging.

Look at his right foot, the balance was not here at all. This is the wrong ball, the wrong bowler, the wrong shot, the wrong execution. So let’s go through all that. Why is it the wrong ball, it was too short to play it down the ground. The wrong bowler, well Josh Hazlewood is tall. I think there are ways to attack him, I don’t think slogging is a good choice in general, but against a tall bowler, it’s a recipe to hit straight up. And then you can see his right foot. He is not balanced. His spikes are not in the ground, and this is because he’s not playing the right shot, his balance is horrendous.

Also, Hazlewood put together some incredible lengths at times. There was a cluster of about seven balls that were as tight as any spinner’s grouping.

David Miller’s case for being an ATG ODI batter (SAK)

I always found him a very interesting player. Partly because he was unfairly judged when compared to AB de Villiers. And post him, he doesn’t quite play to his potential. But when he is good again, the rest of the South African batters start to make runs. So he’s always been in a shadow, but I’m glad he’s getting his due now.

What a great effort from Miller that was. The Klaasen wicket really spoiled their plans, but he became the first batter to score a hundred in a 50-over World Cup knockout for South Africa.

I also want to show how good he was in the cycle. He was averaging 61 (!!) between the two World Cups and scoring at well over a run a ball. And he’s still over a run-a-ball in this World Cup. I actually thought he might go nuts like Maxwell, but he picked the right balls to hit today. Very clever from him.

We know he has been dominating spin, but he had to be a lot more circumspect today - especially with the balls going away. The fact that he scored a hundred at a strike rate of over 80 on a wicket where nobody else could seem to bat was just superb.

Not a particularly high strike rate against Maxwell and Head. Played Hazelwood and Starc pretty well when he came in, though the ball was a bit old by that time. The way he played Zampa was an absolute treat though.

One thing I loved about Miller’s batting is the way he played Zampa on length. He had his two shots to the legside. One when the ball was shorter, one when it was fuller. He could have attacked on the base of spin, but instead, he waited until everything was in his zone. I think this is one of the changes to how he plays spin that has allowed him to get to another level.

The fifth wicket (JK)

South Africa have been taking the piss for ages when it comes to losing four wickets and not losing the fifth. It matters more for them than anyone, especially with Marco Jansen, and many far worse options at number seven for them as well.

Today they were at it again with Klaasen and Miller saving the day. In the last cycle, they were the best team at just not losing that wicket. Sure it was out of desperation, but it has become part of their DNA. The weird thing is they also score quickly when doing it as well.

This World Cup they are completely different. They have been losing wickets there more often - partly because of the entire chase thing - but they’ve been scoring at a rate that no one else can. So that is why the Klaasen wicket was huge. His wicket meant that 280 was no longer an option and that 150 was now on the table. In the end, they got over 200. But it shows you the flaw in South Africa’s game. I have been talking bout this for over a year. In order for South Africa to win, their top order need to be superheroes. And Miller was, Klaasen wasn’t.

You got a good look at the difference between the two teams. Inglis is a 28-year-old professional batter who keeps. Jansen is a 23-year-old bowler who can bat a little bit. Jansen will be a better player in the future, but he isn’t that now. Coetzee and Maharaj are nowhere near as good as Cummins and Starc as well.

The weird thing is I thought if it would hurt them in this World Cup, it would be in a knockout game. But they batted first, so they got what they wanted. And the pressure still got to them. These games are when the tiniest cracks in a team could be exposed.

Temba Bavuma’s form (SAK)

When people talked about him being dropped, this is what Temba was like in the World Cup cycle. It seemed like his game was the best suited for ODIs. His ability to rotate strike and put the pressure back with his running between the wickets were really well suited to this format. But this World Cup, he has been really bad. Obviously, the injury probably affects this too. He has quite often gotten stuck too in this tournament.

This is all his ODI scores this year. He was giving them starts consistently, so they did not lose a lot of wickets in the build up.

This is his batting average at home versus away. It is probably still just a fluke stat, but it is worth looking at. It was clear they wanted him to play today, no matter what. He was a bit of a liability in the field today because of his injury. He is one of the best moving fielders usually.

The Markram gambit (JK)

Australia is an ideal team to bowl your part-time offie in the powerplay against, because of their left-handed openers. Today something else was going on, because of Warner and Head’s start. So you might feel nervous about using the offie when your seamers are getting smashed, but it was a great move to bring him on. If that partnership wasn’t broken, we may have been talking about the game way differently.