An Australia vs South Africa World Cup clash is considered a marquee event. Thus, it was a shame that the final league game of the tournament was a dead rubber considering that the four semi-finalists were decided. Faf du Plessis blasted a ton and Rassie van der Dussen’s 95 helped South Africa to 325/6. David Warner blasted a ton and Alex Carey slammed 85 off 68 balls to keep Australia in the hunt. But, Chris Morris changed the course of the game not once but twice. He took a brilliant catch to dismiss Warner and got rid of Carey when the Australian keeper was threatening to take the game away from them. South Africa held their nerve and ended their tournament on a high with a 10-run win over Australia, which erased 20 years of pain, this being the first encounter in England since the 1999 semi-final tie in Edgbaston.
With this result, India will face New Zealand in the first semi-final in Old Trafford on July 9 while Australia will square off against England in the second semi-final in Edgbaston on July 11.
South Africa had no hesitation in batting first in Old Trafford and they got a great start with Mitchell Starc starting poorly. The left-armer, currently the leading wicket-taker in the 2019 World Cup, started with five wides and Aiden Markram made him pay by slamming two boundaries in the first over. Markram looked in excellent touch with two fours off Jason Behrendroff and Starc clearly struggled for rhythm, conceding two more fours to Quinton de Kock.
Pat Cummins was greeted by two fours by De Kock as the partnership zoomed past fifty in just the seventh over. Markram looked in great touch by launching Nathan Lyon for a six but was stumped by Carey in the quest for aggression. Faf du Plessis, the skipper, pounced on Starc’s woes by hammering him for two boundaries as South Africa maintained a great rate.
De Kock notched up his third fifty in the 2019 World Cup but immediately fell to Lyon. That brought in Rassie van der Dussen and along with du Plessis, the duo continued to hurt Australia. Carey missed a stumping chance of van der Dussen on 3 and the batsman made Australia pay . Du Plessis reached his fifty and hammered Cummins for a six and a four in the 34th over. The Proteas skipper neared his ton with a six and two boundaries off Lyon and Behrendorff respectively.
Van der Dussen broke the shackles with a couple of sixes as he reached his fifty while du Plessis scored a century in what could potentially be his last World Cup game. However, du Plessis fell immediately after reaching the landmark but van der Dussen continued to punish Australia as he launched into Cummins in the 48th over as South Africa crossed 300. The right-hander had a chance to reach his 100 in the last ball and he timed the pull shot well off Cummins only for Maxwell to take a good catch and send him on his way for 95.
Chris Morris took a stunning catch to dismiss David Warner and got the big wicket of Alex Carey. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Still, a target of 326 would have been the second-most successful chase and Australia did not start well. Imran Tahir, playing in his last international game for South Africa, trapped Aaron Finch LBW and set off on a wild celebration. Usman Khawaja retired hurt due to a hamstring injury while Steve Smith’s underwhelming tournament continued when he was trapped in front by Dwaine Pretorius for 6. Marcus Stoinis and Warner looked to rebuild but Stoinis’ run-out dented Australia further while Glenn Maxwell was undone by a superb catch from Quinton de Kock.
However, Warner and Carey took the fight to South Africa. The left-handed opener, in particular, pierced the gap brilliantly and took a calculated risk everytime. Warner notched up his third hundred and he was all set for the onslaught. However, Morris took a brilliant catch off Pretorius but Carey continued the fight, hammering 16 runs off Tahir and a further 12 runs off Tabraiz Shamsi as the match boiled down to a tense finish.
When Morris sent back Carey, it seemed the game was up but Khawaja came back and along with Starc, kept the fight going. Starc blated a six and a four off Morris but once both Khawaja and Starc fell to Rabada, South Africa closed it out in style.
The final match lived up to all the billing as a thriller, shame it had to be a dead rubber. It was also sad that South Africa turned up so late in the tournament. However, the win was a fitting tribute to Tahir and JP Duminy, playing their last international games and it was also a great tribute to du Plessis, potentially leading the side for the last time in a major tournament.