Australia Again

Aus beat SA

After all the talk and calm belief, South Africa’s World Cup ended in a whimper, with a resounding defeat to defending champions Australia in the second semi final. Australia will now meet Sri Lanka on Saturday in a repeat of the 1996 final, won then by Sri Lanka. What had been billed as a repeat of the classic, thrilling ’99 semi final tie between the same two teams, was effectively over in the first few overs. South Africa, having won the toss and chosen to bat, on a wicket that was expected to get slower and slower as the match wore on, lost first Smith, and then Kallis, both advancing down the pitch only to be bowled, Smith by Bracken, and Kallis by McGrath. The South African batsmen seemed intent on playing to a preconceived game plan rather then what the situation warranted. Smith looked to carry on from where he left off against England, advancing down the track he was bowled by Brackan for 2. Kallis was out next, playing very uncharacteristically, having hit McGrath for a 4, he advanced down the pitch, and was bowled for 5. South Africa seemed to believe that they had to play aggressively to get on top of the Australian bowlers, seeming to think that the approach they had so successfully employed in the group game, for the first 20 overs, was the correct formula to defeat the powerful Aussie bowling machine. The difference here being that the situation and conditions on that day called for that approach, the boundaries were close, the pitch flat, and they were chasing a mammoth total of 377. Equally important was that for those 20 overs everything went right – they did not lose a wicket. The loss of Smith early should have brought a more circumspect approach to the opening period, but Kallis went playing a shot that wasn’t needed, de Villiers followed him after seeming to be prepared to get himself set, Prince played a very irresponsible shot, swinging at a wide delivery to be out for a duck, Boucher followed him, out first ball, and South Africa found themselves 27/5. Kemp and Gibbs set about attempting to dig themselves out of the mire they found themselves in. Gibbs, looking to banish the ghost of ’99, when he dropped Steve Waugh, looked in good touch, although he should have been given out early in his innings, caught behind, but survived that appeal to play some brilliant strokes on his way to 39. He was out just as he threatened to rescue the South African innings. Hall and then Pollock followed, and it was left to Justin Kemp to guide South Africa to a total that would give them a chance. Playing well within himself, the usually big hitting, aggressive, Kemp took his time, assessing the situation and realising that his wicket was important if South Africa were to find away back into the game. The dismissal of Pollock, the last of the batsmen before the tail was exposed, best typified the confusing nature of the South African approach. Pollock, a stylish, stroke playing batsmen, who is capable of hitting the ball long, was caught between defending his wicket, and playing his natural game. Having hit Hogg for four, he then pushed a ball right back into Hogg’s hands, not going through with the shot, caught in two minds. In the usual situation Pollock would have hit the ball past the bowler to the straight boundary. Nel tried to stick around, and Langeveld did his best, but it wasn’t enough. South Africa were all out for 149, with Kemp stranded on 49 not out. Early wickets were needed, and when Langeveld followed up a tight opening over from Pollock, with the wicket of Gilchrist, bowled for one, with his first ball, the South Africans began to hope, and dream. It was almost two soon after, but Ponting was dropped by prince, a difficult chance, that would have been a superb catch had it stuck, but the type of chance that must be taken if small totals are to be defended. Ponting would eventually go for 22, bowled by Nel, but by then the game was well within Australian control. Hayden and Clarke set about the total, and South Africa’s hopes faded. Hayden would not find himself out there when the winning runs were scored, but he did his job well, curbing his free scoring starts for a more cautious approach, and then scoring when the right balls presented themselves. He did what the South Africans failed to do – assess the situation and play to it. Clarke and Symonds rattled off the winning runs with ease, with Clarke particularly impressive, scoring an undefeated half century. Whether it was nerves, the occasion, or just an off day, the South Africa we all hoped would show up, to give the Australians a test they’ve lacked all tournament, never pitched up. After all the tack, the prematch dialogue concerning a calm, patient approach, not being haunted by the ’99 Semi Final, the South African dream burst with a gutless, feeble, display, that will have the South Africans cursing the lost opportunity to show the world what they were really capable of, and ends with the Australians once again in the final.

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