The second semi-final of the ODI World Cup 2023 between South Africa and Australia has all the makings of a potential blockbuster. And why not. Two top one-day sides take each other on. On one side, you have the Proteas Men hungry for their first World Cup title. On the other, you have the five-time Champions Australia who want one more and extend their dominance in this tournament.
Australia have been in red hot form of late. They have not won the ODI World Cups five times for nothing. These guys know how to win big trophies. The Aussies know how to play the World Cups well at the backend of the tournament and when to peak their game. Having lost the title in 2019, they will be pumped up to take it back.
Pat Cummins and Co started off poorly in the tournament with losses to India and South Africa respectively. Many counted them out. Some said they looked rusty and tired. They had two tough games wherein they indeed look off-coloured, rusty but look at how they improved their game from thereon, winning everything since the loss to SA. As I said earlier in one of the previews, you can take the Aussies lightly at your own peril. They have once again shown that their hunger for big tournaments is never-ending. They simply love winning. They would love to win two more in this World Cup and return home with another silverware.
Watch out for Glenn Maxwell. He has already played one of the best knocks of all time in this format and some are even arguing if it is the best ODI innings anyone has ever seen in the fifty overs format. Can he light up the Eden Gardens come Thursday, is the big question. What a stage it is to do that. In Kolkata. At Eden Gardens. Allan Border’s men had beaten England in the final over there in 1987 to lift the cup for the first time. Australia know their history. They love their history. They will be hoping to repeat a similar feat this World Cup, starting with a win over South Africa in the semis at the very same venue.
On the other Side, South Africa have unfinished business in this World Cup. They came very close to realising their dream at the 2015 World Cup when the AB de Villers-led side lost to the Black Caps at Eden Park. Here, we are fast-forwarded to 2023 and the Aussies are just starting to click with their engine room running nice and smoothly. The South Africans had a stutter here and there and have looked in self-doubt at times. They received a mauling from India and that was not a long time ago. So, they are going to have to fire collectively to beat the Australians.
There are questions around Temba Bavuma’s fitness leading into the big semifinal. He is the captain and has played a crucial part in them reaching the semis. He did attend some batting sessions, which is what I have learned from media reports. Let’s see if the skipper can take his position in the playing 11 on the big day.
South Africa have got many match-winners in their side. Quinton de Kock is having a great World Cup and wants to retire with a bang. He would want to go on a high. There is Aiden Markram, who looked in good touch. Heinrich Klaasen, Rassie van der Dussen have all been in touch. Bavuma has not got many runs, but he may have kept his best for the last.
The Australia vs South Africa match could well be decided by the fast bowlers. The opening spells in both innings will matter. On one side, you have Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Marco Jansen. On the other, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins. These are six of the best pacers going around in the world and almost all of them are in good form and rhythm.
This is another great setup for a semifinal clash in the World Cup. Australia and South Africa are old rivals in this format of the game. It is expected to be a highly intense match with both sides looking to make their way to the final. Can SA make their first-ever final of an ODI World Cup? They have been frustrated in the past and would dearly want to finally do that. Or can Aussies go all the way and lift the World Cup for the record sixth time in such a short time, given the start they got in this edition. Hard one to call which side is the favourites to win here. I believe Aussies are just slightly favourites here looking at how they have played the last few matches. But these are two good sides locking horns and there are not going to be any surprising winners here.