Every South African cricketer despises the ‘C’ word, while Australia, the legacy champions of the 50-over format, seek to emphasize their dominance in the best possible manner.
In the realm of the ODI World Cup, Australia instill fear and anxiety among their rivals, boasting five titles in 12 editions, with four coming in the last six. They are renowned for thriving in significant moments.
Conversely, South Africa’s story has been one of repeated semi-final heartbreaks, reaching the last four four times in nine editions but always falling short.
Whether it’s the rain-rule miscalculation in the 1992 semifinal against England or the tied result in 1999 that propelled Australia to the final on a better run-rate, the Proteas have never been able to progress beyond the semi-final stage.
In 2015, Grant Elliott etched his name in history with the only significant innings of his international career at Eden Park.
“As a South African team, we know we’re going to have that chip on our back, or that narrative that we have to get over,” South Africa skipper Bavuma said, often being asked of the narrative.
However, the intensity displayed by South Africa in reaching the semi-final this time suggests that the Proteas are poised to overcome it.
“That’s always going to be there until we win a trophy… But yeah, I haven’t heard that word come up as of yet in the training,” he adds, throwing a word of caution.
Apart from their batting collapse against India at the same venue, where they folded for 83 in the group phase, and the struggle against the Netherlands, South Africa have displayed ominous form in the batting department.
Four of their top-six batters have notched centuries, with wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton De Kock leading the way in the opening slot with four centuries in his swansong tournament. De Kock is the tournament’s leading run-scorer with 591 runs.
The batting prowess only becomes more formidable as you move down the order.
Rassie van der Dussen has provided solidity at No. 3, averaging 55.25, which is their second-highest in this tournament behind De Kock’s 65.66.
In spin-friendly conditions, Heinrich Klaasen has been ruthless, while Aiden Markram has contributed to strong finishes. South Africa have surpassed the 300-run mark six times and posted the World Cup’s highest total of 428/5 against Sri Lanka.
David Miller has had limited opportunities and is due for a big innings, while Temba Bavuma is the only weak link in their power-packed batting.
Struggling with poor form, Bavuma has managed 145 runs from seven innings, with his highest score being 35 against Australia. Additionally, he is racing against time to recover from a hamstring strain.
If Bavuma is unfit for the fixture against Australia, Reeza Hendricks is likely to replace him and open with De Kock. Hendricks has played two matches in this tournament and boasts an 85 against England.
“In every training and every innings, he (Bavuma) looks like he’s close. A good score is just around the corner. Now as far as being undroppable, nobody is bigger than the team. The same goes for everyone,” the South African coach Rob Walter has said.
This time, the Proteas are fortunate to have a left-arm quick in Marco Jansen, their second leading wicket-taker (17). He aims to provide early breakthroughs, sharing the new ball with Lungi Ngidi.
Adding left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj’s guile in the middle overs, along with wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, South Africa seems well-equipped for the challenging Eden surface.
Given the wicket’s expected dryness and spin-friendly nature due to being under covers for the rain threat, the South African bowling attack appears formidable.
South Africa, having lost both matches while chasing, hope to win the toss and bat first, a strategy they have executed with distinction in this tournament.
After a sluggish start with losses to India and South Africa, Australia have regained form, securing seven consecutive wins at the right time.
Glenn Maxwell’s remarkable 201 not out, mostly batting on one leg, single-handedly chased down 292 after slumping to 91/7 against Afghanistan, providing the team a much-needed impetus.
Maxwell, returning after missing the last group phase match due to hamstring soreness, is likely to replace all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, who has had a challenging World Cup.
Veteran David Warner, with back-to-back hundreds against Pakistan and the Netherlands, might have slowed down in the business end but remains a threat up front.
Left-hander Travis Head, making a spectacular return with a blistering 109 against New Zealand, aims to bounce back after quieter performances with scores of 11, 0 and 10 in his last three outings, especially during the powerplay.
Mitchell Marsh, with 426 runs at an average of 60.85, has been the backbone of Australia’s batting. He and Maxwell will be crucial to propel them to a substantial score.
Australia also anticipate a return to form for veteran Steve Smith, who has been phenomenal in ODI World Cup knockouts, amassing 311 runs from four innings with an average close to 104, featuring three fifties and one century.