Before the World Cup semi-final between Australia and South Africa, the prevailing sentiment may have been one of relief that neither team would have to face India. However, the downside for the eventual winner is that they will have to travel to Ahmedabad to compete against India. In the first semi-final, India scored almost 400 runs against New Zealand, making for an impressive display of statistics. In comparison, the second semi-final has received less attention.
In comparison to other countries, the local presence is relatively low. This is not the case for competing countries. Despite India’s strong performance, there is another factor that is not in equilibrium – the importance of this outcome. With South Africa recently winning the Rugby World Cup, claiming a coveted cricket trophy would be a monumental achievement and a moment of pride and jubilation for the nation. Australian fans may simply acknowledge the score and add the World Cup to their already significant collection of five.
Australia’s players have already experienced and achieved success in the past. The majority of the current team, including David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood, were all members of the 2015 winning team. Pat Cummins and Mitchell Marsh also received medals as substitutes. George Bailey, who is currently a selector, will choose all seven of these players for the semi-finals and beyond if they qualify.
The only uncertainty in Australia’s team may be related to the weather, as there are conflicting reports of rain during the approaching cyclone season in the Bay of Bengal. In theory, a shorter game would benefit the powerful batting of Marcus Stoinis, while a longer match may require the steady innings-building abilities of Marnus Labuschagne.
Either someone must step aside now that Maxwell has been cleared to come back, following his exhaustion and severe cramps during his double century while rescuing the game against Afghanistan. Maxwell underwent a hamstring scan two days prior to the match, but it was probably a result of the discomfort from his cramps. He was able to bat without any problems on that day and the following day.
However, the decision may not solely depend on the weather, but rather on the strategy. It is expected that the pitch will be favorable for spin bowling, as it was when England beat Pakistan in the previous round. South Africa has considered playing two spinners, while Australia may opt for Labuschagne’s steady scoring or Stoinis’ aggressive approach against spin, along with Maxwell. Both options could be justified for their effectiveness against spin.
Australia will keep going with the same approach: Adam Zampa and his 22 wickets for the campaign as the specialist spinner, Maxwell in support, then the main three fast bowlers with Starc returning to replace Sean Abbott. Ignore the first week of the tournament and this is a team that has built a dominant campaign together, knocking off seven wins in succession. The only problem is that the first two games were heavy losses to the two remaining obstacles, South Africa and India.
Despite winning, Australia has not been able to perform consistently throughout the entire game. Their victories against Pakistan, New Zealand and the Netherlands were dependent on high scoring from their opening batsmen. Only the Dutch team was able to respond with a similar amount of runs. In order to defeat Afghanistan, Maxwell had to achieve the highest score ever in a run chase, while Marsh had to come close in their match against Bangladesh. Although Sri Lanka had a strong start in their batting innings, they struggled to defend their total of 209. In a match against England, Australia’s low total in Pune was only successful due to England’s lack of confidence in their batting.
Maybe a strategy centered around unexpected individual accomplishments could be effective. If Australia’s performance is unpredictable, it creates difficulties for a team that follows strict regulations in their planning. South Africa’s approach is to always bat first and stick to the same game plan. This strategy only works if luck is on their side or if opposing captains make poor decisions. The former could occur in Kolkata, but the latter is unlikely unless the possibility of rain influences teams to choose to chase.
The upcoming journey for the Australian team, whether starting in Kolkata or Ahmedabad, will mark the end of their one-day road for many players. Warner and Starc have expressed this sentiment, and it is also likely for Smith, Hazlewood, and Cummins to retire before the next World Cup due to age and physical strain. Maxwell and Marsh are the only members from the 2015 team who have a strong argument to continue playing. Although their chances would be better if they were dual World Cup winners, even with only two knockout games left, that possibility seems distant.