Who: Australia vs South Africa
When: Thursday, November 16, 2023, 2pm (08:30 GMT)
Where: Eden Gardens, Kolkata, India
South Africa captain Temba Bavuma senses his team is on the cusp of something special at the ICC World Cup 2023, but it is the pedigree of their opponents, five-time champions Australia, which is keeping them grounded ahead of their semifinal.
South Africa have never progressed beyond the semifinals of the tournament, impeded by a combination of bad luck and nerves, but they have looked formidable this time, winning seven of their nine group matches.
“With the way we’ve performed as a team, it’s obviously created a lot of positive sentiments and obviously high expectation,” Bavuma said on Wednesday ahead of the semifinal in Kolkata.
“A lot of people believe that this could be the year that we see ourselves in the final. As a team and individually, we’d like nothing better than that.”
Australia not a ‘Mickey Mouse team’
For that, they would have to get the better of Australia, the most successful team in the history of the tournament, who began their campaign with back-to-back defeats but have since won seven in a row to waltz into the last four.
The enormity of the challenge is not lost on Bavuma despite South Africa’s comprehensive victory against Australia in a group match last month.
“We’re not coming up against a Mickey Mouse team. Australia have a lot of experience and confidence in knockout games like this, so we’ve got to respect that,” Bavuma said.
“I think from our performances, from the processes that we’ve followed to get to this point, we’ll continue to lean on that, and we believe that will take care of the result.”
Bavuma did not deny a “normal level of anxiety” prevailing in the Proteas dressing room but said they had the “solutions and mechanisms” to deal with that.
— ICC (@ICC) November 15, 2023
Meanwhile, Australia skipper Pat Cummins said his players will draw on experience from previous title wins, spurred on by Glenn Maxwell’s heroics, which, he said, have given them “an extra leg”.
Australia went down to the Proteas in the league stage by 134 runs and lost an ODI series in South Africa in September but have beaten their rivals twice in World Cup semifinals.
“I think what helps us is we’ve got a lot of guys that have been in this situation before that have won the one-day World Cup, T20 World Cup, various other tournaments in big moments,” Cummins told reporters.
Cummins – along with David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood – was part of Australia’s 2015 World Cup triumph at home and their maiden T20 World Cup title win in Dubai in 2021.
Australia have witnessed some brilliant individual performances at this World Cup, including an unbeaten 201 from Maxwell in their dramatic win over Afghanistan and a match-winning 177 not out from Mitchell Marsh against Bangladesh.
“As a team, you grow an extra leg because you feel like you can win a match from anywhere and having someone like Maxi in your team. … He’s a superstar. He’s a freak. He can win a game from anywhere. Pretty glad he’s in our team.”
Rain is threatening the contest as downpours are forecast in the eastern city on Thursday and during Friday’s reserve day.
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) November 15, 2023
Head to head
Both teams have plenty of experience of playing each other in the World Cup and have won three matches apiece. One match, the 1999 semifinal, was tied, but Australia progressed due to a better group stage finish.
Both teams are in rich vein of form ahead of the match and will look to build on it.
Australia: W W W W W
South Africa: W L W W W
Australia team news
Maxwell is expected to return to the side, having been rested in their last match.
Predicted XI: David Warner, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Marnus Labuschagne, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood
South Africa team news
Bavuma, who is doubtful for the match with a hamstring strain, said the team would take a late call on his participation. Should he miss the semifinal, Aiden Markram would lead South Africa while Reeza Hendricks is likely to open alongside Quinton de Kock.
Predicted XI: De Kock, Bavuma (captain)/Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi