I see the second semifinal between South Africa and Australia as a mental battle between the two sides more than anything else. These two teams have had contrasting experiences at this stage of the World Cup. South Africa have clearly struggled to get into the final and win the World Cup. They have stumbled in the last editions in their pursuit of the elusive trophy. People can call their campaigns what they want to. The thing is that South Africa will have to deal with this important factor going into the semis. On the other hand, you have Australia who are perennial winners who know how to win the semifinals and World Cups.
Australia and South Africa enter the semis with two contrasting emotions. While SA know they have struggled in the past in the semi-finals, Australia have a knack of raising their game in the knockouts. How South Africa can forget the history of the semifinals and manage the mental side of this situation will be crucial. SA are still favourites purely based on numbers they have produced in this World Cup. But on the mental side of the things, the Proteas Men will be facing a big challenge. That, for me, will be exciting to watch how the psychology of the contest plays out.
Australia’s middle-order a concern
Australia, in this World Cup, have relied on extraordinary performances such as Glenn Maxwell’s double hundred, Mitchell Marsh’s knocks, David Warner’s form, Travis Head’s fantastic ton on return. However, their middle order batting remains a little worry. The individual brilliance has masked the struggle of their middle order. It has not really been firing in this tournament so far. My gut feeling is that Marnus Labuschagne will play and perhaps Marcus Stoinis will be left out for the same reason. In case Australia lose a couple of wickets at the start, their middle order does need to fire, it needs to prop up.
There is no doubt that Australia have looked a little weary in this World Cup, especially Pat Cummins with the ball. They have played a lot of cricket of late and their bodies have become tired. But thankfully for them, Adam Zampa has had a good World Cup. He has bowled beautifully while others have shown improvement as the tournament progressed.
In my view, Glenn Maxwell’s overs are going to be crucial. Zampa will need a support from one end, and I have said in my previous articles as well that this is no more the South Africa who don’t play spin that well. The likes of Aiden Markram, Heichrich Klaasen have improved their game against spin bowling. David Miller has always been good against spin. Rassie van der Dussen has had many successes playing in the subcontinent conditions, and he has understood how to play slow pace here.
Having said that, it is also true that Ravindra Jadeja had great success over them at Eden Gardens, not so long back. That’s why the Australian spinners need to bowl well in these conditions.
At the start of the tournament, I had said that Australia might be batter light depending on which side they will pick. But with Travis Head back now and Maxwell coming in at 6 or 7, they look fine. The recovery of Head has been and will be crucial for them.
As far as South Africa are concerned, they look in great shape. They will have to a take a big selection call ahead of the semis. Whether to go with Tabrai z Shamsi or not. He was quite expensive in the game at the same ground vs India. They could go back to Gerald Coetzee who has done well in the tournament. Keshav Maharaj will play for sure. He has been exceptional with the ball. The only selection call they need to take is Coetzee for Shamsi or not and that will depend on the conditions. In my book, Coetzee plays.
SA’s pace bowling is full of high-class bowlers too. Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada are one of the best in the world. Marco Jansen will be a key player. Jansen was very expensive in the last match, but I doubt if that will have any effect on his selection in the semifinal. I think he is a pivotal player with both bat and ball. He is a good ball striker too along with providing wickets at the start. If South Africa are to win this semi-final, Jansen needs to have a big game. If he creates a huge impact in the game, South Africa should do the job.
Personally, I think this will be a huge game for David Warner and Quinton de Kock. Both the top-class left-handed opening batters are playing their last World Cups, and the semi-final will bring an end of World Cup for one of them. Warner has been an amazing player for a long period of time. He has had an incredible World Cup. I feel he has been playing his best cricket for years. It will be a massive game for him. A win will take him closer to another World Cup trophy. If Australia do get the title, it will be a fitting end for Warner, who has been a terrific player for Australia.
Likewise, de Kock has been a huge servant of South African cricket. Imagine what a World Cup win will mean for de Kock, who signs off at the end of it. Like Warner, he too has had a wonderful World Cup. He has struck three Hundreds and will look for the fourth in the semis. De Kock and Warner have not just served their countries but also served those who watch the game. These two left-handers have provided so much entertainment to the world. Let’s see what they have to offer in the semis with the bat.