Australia beat South Africa by three wickets in the second semifinal match of the World Cup that was played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India on Thursday.
Aussies would face the unbeatable side of the tournament, India, in the final that would be played at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Travis Head was announced player of the match for his all-round performance. The all-rounder, who comes as an opener, made 62 off 48 balls and picked up two wickets, including one of the in-form batter Heinrich Klaasen.
The 213-run target was small to chase as compared to most of the matches in the tournament where teams mostly scored over 300, but the South African bowlers made sure to give tough time to the Australian batters.
It was tailenders who did the job for Australia. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins made a 22-run partnership to secure their spot in the final.
Tabraiz Shamsi was the star bowler for South Africa. He picked up two wickets in 10 overs while giving 42 runs. Moreover, David Miller hit a defiant century to help rescue his side against the five-time world champions in the match.
But both of the performances were not enough to end the perennial chokers tag on South Africa.
David Miller hit a defiant century that gave hope to his side in the knock out contest.
Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc returned figures of 3-34 after South Africa had been reduced to 24-4 at one stage before Miller and Henrich Klaasen (47) staged a recovery under gloomy skies at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
The left-handed Miller reached his ton in 115 deliveries with a six off Pat Cummins but the Australian captain dismissed him two balls later on 101.
The innings folded soon after in 49.4 overs.
“Really big,” Miller, 34, said of his sixth career one-day international century. “Glad to get the hundred, but we want to win at the end of the day.
“We expected these conditions at the start of the match, but we were on the back foot after four down in the powerplay.”
Cummins and Starc took three wickets each while fellow quick Josh Hazlewood and part-time spinner Travis Head bagged two apiece.
Left-arm quick Starc struck in the first over to send back South Africa captain Temba Bavuma, who had said he was not “100% fit” at the toss, for a fourth-ball duck.
Hazlewood claimed the wicket of in-form Quinton de Kock for three as Cummins took a stunning catch.
De Kock, who will quit one-day international cricket when this World Cup is over, has scored 594 runs including four centuries to sit behind the tournament’s leading batsman Virat Kohli (711).
The new-ball bowlers kept up the attack with the wickets of Aiden Markram (10) and Rassie van der Dussen (six) as South Africa slumped and were 44-4 when rain interrupted play.
Klaasen and Miller hit back after the 45-minute rain break as the two hit regular boundaries.
The pair put on 95 for the fifth wicket but Head broke through to bowl Klaasen for 47.
Head trapped Marco Jansen lbw on the next delivery to be on a hat-trick, which was saved by Gerald Coetzee.
Coetzee, who has been a breakout star for South Africa with 18 wickets, kept Miller company in a partnership of 53.
Miller smashed eight fours and five sixes in his 116-ball knock.
Coetzee fell caught behind off Cummins but replays suggested the ball grazed his shoulder and not his bat, but the batsman walked off without reviewing.
South Africa were trying to reach their first ever World Cup final after faltering in four semi-finals including two against Australia in 1999 and 2007.
Australia’s winning target brought back memories of the 1999 contest between the two teams when the Aussies were bowled out for 213 and South Africa finished on the same score.
The match ended tied but Australia went ahead due to a better group stage finish.
South Africa on Thursday won the toss and opted to bat against Australia in the second World Cup semifinal. But the rain created hurdles and the match was stopped for a while.
Australia captain Pat Cummins said that they would have batted first as well, given the weather.
“We are due a win over South Africa,” he told English commentator Michael Atherton while referring to their recent losses against the Proteas.
When asked, Cummins said his team has plenty of experience. “Experience is really important [in the World Cup] and we have been in these positions before and come out the other side,” he said.
Australia have brushed off their early losses in the tournament and Cummins said that it was down to the team learning “what we look like when we are not at our best”.
“The weather did come into consideration but we looked at our strengths and decided to bat first,” Bavuma told Atherton.
Australia bounced back from two opening defeats – including one by South Africa – to win seven consecutive matches. South Africa have lost only two matches, to Netherlands and India, to finish second in the group stage.
Records have tumbled for both teams with Glenn Maxwell beating Aiden Markram’s highest individual World Cup score last week.