SA keen to shed choker’s tag against powerhouse Australia

Proteas have to overcome most successful team in history of 50 overs World Cup in semifinal

Aiden Markram will have to step in as captain if Temba Bavuma is unable to play
WAITING GAME: Aiden Markram will have to step in as captain if Temba Bavuma is unable to play
Image: PANKAJ NANGIA /GALLO IMAGES

SA sense an opportunity to finally get rid of the choker’s tag but the onerous task entails getting the better of the most successful team in the history of the 50 overs World Cup, Australia, in Thursday’s semifinal in Kolkata.

Hurt by a combination of bad luck and nerves in the business end of the showpiece event, SA are pitted against a powerhouse who thrive in those big moments as Australia have demonstrated with five titles.

The Proteas need to be in control of their nerves to be in control of their destiny, and barring the batting meltdown against India, they have looked formidable, finishing second in the group stage behind the hosts.

There is plenty of firepower in their top order and Australia got their fingers burned when Quinton de Kock’s rapid hundred secured the Proteas’ comprehensive victory in a group match in Lucknow.

SA, who have never progressed beyond the last four, are fretting over the availability of skipper Temba Bavuma, who is nursing a hamstring strain.

“We will continuously assess his progress through the management plan over the next few days towards giving him the best chance to play on Thursday,” the team said in a statement.

Should he miss the semifinals, Aiden Markram would lead the side, while Reeza Hendricks is likely to open alongside De Kock, who has smashed four hundreds in his final ODI tournament.

They have looked more comfortable setting targets than chasing one though, and they will expect more penetration from their bowlers against a resurgent Australia.

Regardless of how their group stage campaign ebbed and flowed, it came as no surprise when Australia hurtled towards the knockout stages by stringing together seven wins in a row after that defeat by SA.

Travis Head’s return from a hand injury has rejuvenated their batting line-up, allowing others to play with more freedom, which has been evident in their subsequent group matches.

Glenn Maxwell’s sensational double hundred against Afghanistan and Mitchell Marsh’s unbeaten 177 off 132 balls against Bangladesh are the top two individual scores in this year’s tournament.

For a large part of that incendiary knock, Maxwell batted on one leg and had to be rested for their last group match against Bangladesh.

The 35-year-old, who has also played the second spinner’s role to perfection, will return for the semifinal replacing either all-rounder Marcus Stoinis or batter Marnus Labuschagne.

“It will be a tough [call],” Australia captain Pat Cummins said on Tuesday.

“Now we’re at a stage where all 15 guys have played the games.

“You’ve got to give up something.

“So it’s kind of ‘what do you want to give up?’ and the good thing is it’s whatever way you go I don’t think there’s any wrong answer.”

Reuters


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