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Australia crush South Africa to enter final
Prem Panicker | April 25, 2007 21:02 IST
Last Updated: April 26, 2007 02:02 IST
Australia cruised into their fourth successive World Cup final, beating South Africa by seven wickets in the second semi-final, in St Lucia, on Wednesday.
The defending champions dismissed South Africa for 149 in 43.5 overs -- their lowest World Cup total -- and then rattled off the required runs in the 32nd over.
Chasing an unprecedented third straight World Cup triumph, they will take on Sri Lanka in the final on Saturday in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Fast bowlers Shaun Tait and Glenn McGrath, with four wickets for 39 and three for 18 respectively, destroyed the Proteas, for whom Justin Kemp top-scored with an unbeaten 49 from 91 balls.South Africa innings:
10 overs: that is how long it took to decide the fate of a semifinal.
Graeme Smith won the toss and on a wicket that had nothing by way of devils, opted to bat first. At the end of 10 overs, South Africa was 27/5. And if the fat lady wasn't singing already, that is only because she, like a majority of the spectators, was still trying to negotiate her way through the turnstiles at the Beausejour Cricket Ground in St Lucia, and find her seat.
There is probably a lesson in here for top teams: never buy into your own hype. Create all you like, for the consumption of the public and even the opposition; start believing in it yourself, though, and you are on a greased slide to perdition.
India for instance buys into its own hype of being the "best batting lineup in the world"; so much so it ignores basics such as fielding, with skipper Rahul Dravid even suggesting that the 30-40 runs India gives away in the field could be made good by the batsmen.
South Africa, similarly, has been talking of `fearless cricket'; of playing the power game; of relentless attack especially against the Australians.
Good to hear, but where is it said that it has to be either aggression, or sense, and never a combination of the two (just the previous day, Mahela Jayawardene had provided a master class on how to combine the two)?
South Africa came out to bat, muttering `attack' like a mantra - and drowned in the flood of its own adrenalin. Consider how the wickets went:
1. To the first ball of the third over, Graeme Smith walks down the wicket before Nathan Bracken had even approached his delivery stride. He couldn't have signaled his intent better if he had sent the bowler a telegram. Smith missed with his flail, but a ball later, he did it again; all Bracken had to do was bowl the fuller length and alter the line, from the channel outside off to the line of the stumps. Smith again flailed and missed, the ball hit (2/5; 7/1).
2. Sixth over, ball two: Jacques Kallis comes down the track, backing to leg to make room. Again, he makes his move with such pre-determination, so early, McGrath spots it easily and follows him with the ball. Kallis still manages to get enough wood on it to smack it through the extra cover region for four. Next ball, down he comes again, again backing to leg; McGrath like Bracken alters line, bowls it on the full length on off. Kallis misses with his swipe, McGrath hits (5/9; 12/2).
3. Shaun Tait comes on in the 9th over, and starts with a short ball that AB de Villiers pulls for four. The next three balls, gradually going up the speedometer through the 90s, are all short, pushing the batsman further back. Then the full ball just outside off; de Villiers, initially moving back, comes forward in a loose drive, gets the outer edge, Gilchrist holds. As set piece dismissals go, that one is about as old as cricket itself (15/34; 26/3).
4. 10th over, McGrath to Ashwell Prince and the worst ball bowled all morning: back of length, wide of off, going wider on the angle; Prince throws his bat at it, gets the edge, Gilchrist holds (0/2; 27/4).
5. To the very next ball, just outside off seaming away, Mark Boucher squares up and pushes with very hard hands; the outer edge goes to Gilchrist (0/1; going across the left hander and wide of off, 27/5).
55 deliveries, 27 runs, five wickets - and it could have been even worse. In the second over of the innings, McGrath got de Villiers playing half cock forward, beat the shot with length and seam movement and took the pad, only for Aleem Dar to turn down the appeal. And off the first ball of the 11th over, Tait cut Herschelle Gibbs in two with a scorcher that came down the pitch at pace, hit the deck just outside off and jagged in like a very fast off break; Gibbs' frantic defensive prod finds the inside edge - crack! - and Gilchrist dives to his left to hold.
Umpire Steve Bucknor, who looks wisest just when he is doing the silliest things, turns the appeal down; he has the experience, he is wired for sound and should have picked up the edge that was audible to the naked ear, but he ruled the other way.
Gibbs rubbed it in by creaming two fours - on both occasions, coming nicely forward into the drives - off the next two balls. And then, with his bat, told the story of why he is considered such a special talent. It was not the shots he hit - though there were a couple of drives, and a brilliant flick off his hips, that made your eyes go wide - but the way he unerringly picked the ball he would hit, and the space he would hit it into, with no apparent effort.
By the 15th over, Bracken had gone 5-1-13-1; McGrath 6-1-14-3. Justin Kemp stood between Australia and the tail, assuming you can call Shaun Pollock that. Ricky Ponting, rather than throw his best two weapons back into the attack, opted to whistle up Shane Watson, as partner for Brad Hogg. Equally, he also avoided taking the power play - two moves that, in tandem, allowed South Africa to get their nose back in the game to an extent.
Kemp, who had struggled to 10 off 34, felt assured enough to wheel into a hook at Shane Watson in the 21st over, hitting him in front of square leg and over the boundary for the six that brought up the 50 of the partnership off 66 balls.
Wisdom dawned, Ponting brought Tait back, Gibbs greeted him with a blast through point at a delivery short and wide of off; Tait responded with a delivery that was quicker, fuller, closer to the stumps - and Gibbs was gone, edging behind to Gilchrist with a tentative poke (39/49; 87/6).
At the 25 over mark, Andrew Hall and Justin Kemp are in the middle; their object, to add as many as they can to the total, and give their bowlers a little something to aim at when the Aussies come out on the chase.
Progression: 1-25 overs
5 overs: 8/1 @ 1.60 (AB de Villiers 4/19; Kallis 1/6)
10 overs: 27/5 @2.70 (Kemp 0/1; Gibbs 4/8)
15 overs: 55/5 @ 3.66 (Gibbs 24/30; Kemp 2/9)
20 overs: 71/5 @ 3.55 (Gibbs 32/40; Kemp 10/29)
25 overs: 90/6 @ 3.60 (Kemp 18/47; Hall 1/3)
It had stopped being a question of how much, as early as the 10th over - the second half of the South African innings revolved around one question alone: How long?
Any vague remnants of hope that the hindquarters of the Proteas batting could beef up the score were scorched when Ponting, apparently having had his fill of Watson bowling line and length to little apparent effect, whipped Tait back into the attack in the 27th.
All Tait had to be was quick, and full; Andrew Hall did the rest, feet anchored in concrete, bat flailing outside off in a parody of a drive, to find the edge through to Gilchrist, who by this stage of the innings must have been contemplating a big fat over-work bonus (3/8; 93/7).
Pollock and Kemp edged South Africa along, with the former cutting Hogg hard through the covers in the 30th over to bring up the 100 of the innings. To the very next ball, Pollock fell: a googly from Hogg had the batsman misreading and pushing tentatively, for the bowler to hold the return 5/13; 103/8).
Andre Nel then produced a great rearguard, reining in his own form of adrenalin-powered insanity and stoutly defending for a good 41 balls while Kemp, at the other end, looked to bat through. The pair batted a tick over 10 overs, which was cool - trouble though was they managed a mere 27 runs in all that time, which was precious, or futile, depending on your point of view.
Tait, again, sliced through, tempting the obdurate Nel into a slash at one outside his off. The pace on the ball, and some late seam movement away, meant Nel merely got the slice and Michael Clarke, back-pedaling at point, held the catch with ease (8/41; 130/9).
Watson, who didn't have quite as good a day as usual, finally ended the Proteas innings in the 44th over. He had the mortification of seeing Shaun Tait drop a straightforward Kemp loft on the long on boundary; he saw Langeveldt carve a boundary square on the off, but with the fifth ball of the over, bowled one straight enough to defeat another attempt by the batsman to back away and slash square; Langeveldt missed with the flail, the ball hit off, and South Africa had been bowled out for 149 with Kemp remaining unbeaten on 49 off 91.
South Africa hardly put a foot right from the get-go; they tossed away too many wickets too early under some mistaken notion of what constitutes aggression, and a fair judgment would be that SA has Ricky Ponting - who decided to take the foot off the pedal a bit - to thank for getting where they did, both in terms of the number of overs they faced, and the runs they had on the board.
At the halfway stage, it is very difficult to see any result other than a very comfortable Australian win; South Africa can, at best, hope to take out a wicket or three and cause some panic before the inevitable happens
30 overs: 103/8 @ 3.43 (Nel 0/2; Kemp 23/57)
35 overs: 119/8 @ 3.40 (Kemp 31/71; Nel 7/18)
40 overs: 130/8 @ 3.25 (Kemp 37/79; Nel 8/40)
South Africa needed an entire army regiment to defend a pitifully low total of 150, but all it had to throw against an Australian batting lineup hell bent on entering its third successive final was the passion and the fury of Andre Nel.
The volatile quick was impressive, certainly, in the way he put the dampeners on the likes of Mathew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, but `the dampeners' wasn't going to cut it; what South Africa needed was wickets, lots of them and those damn quick, and they weren't getting them.
There was a hint of early promise, when Charl Langeveldt began the second over of the chase with a beauty that did for Adam Gilchrist. The ball, angling across the left hander, swung back in very late; Gilchrist was already on the front foot, looking to whip through the leg side when the ball's dip defeated him and crashed into the stumps through the gate (1/5; 1/1).
Ricky Ponting ended that over with an effortless on drive; in Langeveldt's next over he played the same shot to the same line, only better, this time creaming it straight past the bowler.
It took a blinder from Nel to get rid of the Australian captain, just when Ponting seemed in a mood to get the job done and that damn quick. In the 9th over, Nel produced the perfectly pitched yorker at speed; Ponting looked to work it out on the leg side but played all around the line, and had his stumps spread (22/25; 44/2).
The luxury for the Aussies was that time was never a problem; nor was an asking rate that, at the start of the innings, was a mere 3 rpo. Hayden decided that winning was more important than making statements of power - or perhaps, that winning was the best statement there is.
Only occasionally giving expression to his innate brutality (there was a heave at Pollock, for instance, that fetched him his first four after 13 balls faced that was murderous), the Aussie opener settled in to play with calm assurance, working the ball around and sprinting like a far younger, far lighter, man.
Clarke, the middle order stylist, decided to express himself: a sweet as you please cover drive, a creamy flick off his pads through midwicket, then another in the same direction, this time on the drive, stood out; what really commanded attention though was his amazing foot speed between wickets. The `Pup' gets across those 22 yards as though he were on wheels, with a lack of apparent effort.
Graeme Smith's mental energies were probably drained during the first session, when he watched his team's fortunes unravel. In the field, he settled for defense, packing the boundaries and rotating through his roster of bowlers while Hayden and Clarke, showing absolutely no hurry whatsoever, settled down for an extended net.
In the 25th over, Hayden who till that point had been patience personified decided to try and launch Pollock into the stratosphere. He didn't get close enough to the pitch, however, and ended up getting elevation, but not distance; Smith, at mid on halfway down to the boundary, ran around behind the bowler's back and completed the dismissal (41/60; 110/3)
At the halfway mark, the writing is on the wall in letters a mile high; Australia have another 25 overs, and seven wickets, to dot the I's, cross the t's, and get the 40 runs they need to get into the final.
Progression: 1-25 overs
5 overs: 27/1 @ 5.40 (Hayden 7/13; Ponting 17/13)
10 overs: 50/2 @ 5.00 (Hayden 22/30; Clarke 0/1)
15 overs: 69/2 @ 4.60 (Hayden 28/38; Clarke 8/24)
20 overs: 97/2 @ 4.85 (Hayden 36/48; Clarke 28/44)
25 overs: 110/3 @ 4.40 (Clarke 36/60; Symonds 0/1)
Slow - by Australian standards, that is - and steady did it for the Aussies, with Clarke and Andrew Symonds getting past the target in the 32nd over, with seven wickets in hand - as comprehensive a win as you would want.
It is the 28th consecutive win for the Aussies; it puts them in their fourth straight final and one game, one win, away from their third straight title.
Much is going to be made of the symmetry of it all: Sri Lanka stopped Australia in 1996; since then, they have conquered all, and now come up against Sri Lanka again.
That can wait; for now, there is just the latest example of Australian dominance in this sport - and yet another long sad goodbye for South Africa; what will make it worse for the Proteas is that this time, they have just bad cricket to blame: not the rain, not luck, nothing but their own inadequacy under pressure.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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