South Africa’s chance to shed ‘chokers’ tag as they battle redoubtable Australia at Eden

Kolkata, Nov 15 (Representative) A mouth-watering contest is on the cards as Australia and South Africa – two evenly matched sides but with contrasting tournament records – meet at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday for a place in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final. While the Aussies have lifted the World Cup on five occasions – the most by a nation – the Proteas are yet to proceed to the summit round even once, their star-studded teams having fallen by the wayside at the semi-final stage four times. For the Aussies, who last won the trophy in 2015 and bowed out to England at this stage in 2019 – their only semi-final defeat in the history of the tournament – the game on the morrow is an opportunity to reclaim their honours. For South Africa, a team always rated as highly promising but deridingly termed as “chokers” by cricket analysts for failing in crunch situations in crucial knock-out matches, the tie presents a chance to prove the pundits wrong by proceeding to Sunday’s final at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi stadium. Both teams have lost just twice during the group stage of the tournament, with South Africa falling to India and the Netherlands and Australia losing to the Proteas as well as the tournament hosts. It was a one-sided affair when the two combatants played in Lucknow more than a month ago, with Quinton de Kock striking a ton to lad South Africa to a comfortable 134-run victory.

Australia are playing with much more confidence now, with Glenn Maxwell’s heroics with the bat against Afghanistan earlier this month and Adam Zampa’s dream run with the ball raising the expectations of their supporters back home While South Africa were skittled for just 83 by India when they played at the Eden Gardens earlier this month, a high-scoring encounter can be expected this time around with the Proteas and Australia both packing much strength in their batting order. The toss could be vital in deciding the ultimate winners, as both sides would be keen to show off their strong top six and post a large score while batting first. It is at this stage of the event that Australia overpowered South Africa at the 1999 and 2007 editions of the World Cup and Pat Cummins’ side will be hoping to inflict more pain on the Proteas. But Temba Bavuma’s charges have already proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with at this tournament and should not be underestimated. South Africa left-hander Quinton de Kock has been super impressive at this World Cup, having scored four centuries from nine innings while amassing an impressive total of 591 runs to be among the leading run scorers at the tournament. De Kock smashed a brilliant 108 against the Aussies during the group stage in Lucknow and the opener will be pivotal to the Proteas’ top-order once again. With a total of 499 runs to his name and an imposing 50 plus average for the tournament, Australia opener Warner has put together yet another strong World Cup for his country.

Warner was dismissed for just 13 when the teams met earlier in the tournament and the seasoned left-hander will be keen to atone here.Not many quicks have been as effective as South Africa’s Marco Jansen at this year’s edition of the World Cup, with the tall left-armer having picked up 17 wickets in the tournament at an impressive average of 24.41. Many of his scalps have come during the first 10 overs and Australia must be very wary of the threat of the in-form pacer in the Powerplay.No bowler at the tournament has more wickets than the 22 that Australia’s Adam Zampahas accumulated and, at times, the experienced spinner has seemed unplayable. South Africa’s redoubtable willowers will need to be at their best to quell the threat of the in-form leg-spinner.Squads: South Africa squad: Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams.Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith, Alex Carey, Josh Inglis, Sean Abbott, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc.