Veteran Aussie quick Josh Hazlewood (2-12) is being showered with praise across the cricket world after one of the great displays of fast bowling in his side's semi-final victory over South Africa at the World Cup. The Aussie quick and his pace bowling partner Mitchell Starc (3-34) laid the foundations in a brutal start to the match in Kolkata to help bowl the Proteas out for 212.
The Aussies survived a few wobbles with the bat to clinch a three-wicket win, booking their spot in Sunday's tournament decider against unbeaten hosts India, who toppled New Zealand in the other semi-final. Rain had threatened to ruin Australia's hopes in Kolkata but the showers largely stayed away as Pat Cummins' Aussie side set up a showdown with India in impressive fashion, despite a classy century from Proteas batter David Miller (101 off 116).
Having lost the toss and being sent in to the field, Australia used the overcast conditions to their advantage with Hazlewood and Starc on fire in the opening power play. The pair had South Africa 4-31 after 13 overs after an exhibition of pace bowling that was perhaps more reminiscent of Test cricket, such were the line and lengths the pair continually hit.
Cummins made the surprising call of letting Starc bowl seven straight overs, with Hazlewood also throwing down six in a row before being replaced by his captain. Hazlewood sent down three maiden overs and 39 dot balls out of the 48 balls he bowled, getting the key wicket of Quinton de Kock for three to put the pressure firmly on South Africa's top order.
Despite his blistering opening spell, Hazlewood only bowled two more overs to finish with the eye-opening figures of 2-12 off eight overs. The miserly spell of bowling was the most economical of any Australian in 17 years, having bowled at least eight overs in an ODI.
Nathan Bracken the last male to have a better return, with 2-11 off eight overs vs Sri Lanka at Colonial Stadium in 2006 remains the Aussie benchmark. Hazlewood's astonishing display sparked an outpouring of reaction from around the cricket world as fans hailed one of the best displays of fast bowling in a World Cup.
Josh Hazlewood's 2-12 the most economical return (1.5 an over) from an Australian man in 17 years who has sent down 8+ overs.
Nathan Bracken the last male to have a better return, with 2-11 off eight overs vs Sri Lanka at Colonial Stadium. #CWC23
— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) November 16, 2023
8 Overs × 12 Runs × 3 maidens × 2 Ws
Josh Hazlewood is the best all-format bowler in the world.
I'll continue saying this now and forever and day in and day out. pic.twitter.com/AWhtHEUnzg
— Cric Bug (@Smithian_here) November 16, 2023
— Imran Ahmed-Akki (@AkKi284) November 16, 2023
— Rana J (@RanaJ724257) November 16, 2023
South Africa's 212 runs could be a tricky total. Josh Hazlewood bowled brilliantly (8-3-12-2), it's surprising why Cummins didn't allow him to bowl his full quota of 10 overs and bring him in between to try and get Miller out - not sure if he is injured or what??? #WCCricket
— Venugopal (@VVGVenu7) November 16, 2023
"They were outstanding for a large part of the game today and thoroughly deserved the victory," South Africa captain Bemba Bavuma said of the Aussies. "I thought Hazlewood and Starc were ruthless. They exploited every bit of advantage that was presented to them and really put us under pressure. When you are 4-24, you are always going to struggle to get a competitive total."
Aussies scrape home after batting collapse
The Aussie batters were cruising at 0-60 in pursuit of their 213 for victory, before losing 5-67 to make it a nervous finish for Cummins' men. David Warner (29 off 18) and Travis Head (62 off 48) put on 60 for the first wicket in six overs, belting five fours and five sixes between them in the 36-ball stand until the Proteas reverted to spin and turned the tide of the contest.
Aiden Markram removed Warner with the first ball of spin Australia faced, while Mitch Marsh was superbly caught at cover by Rassie van der Dussen without troubling the scorers. Head was then bowled through the gate by Keshav Maharaj (1-24). Marnus Labuschagne was out lbw trying to reverse sweep Tabriz Shami (2-42) on 18, before the left-arm wristspinner bowled Glenn Maxwell for one.
The Aussies were reeling at 5-137 but Steve Smith was able to keep his composure with 30 from 62, before he swung wildly and skied a ball from Gerald Coetzee with 39 runs still required. Josh Inglis (28) got Australia to within 20 runs of victory before he too was bowled by a Coetzee (2-47) yorker.
Quinton de Kock then dropped Cummins with nine runs still to win, marking the Proteas' fifth missed chance in a poor fielding performance from a nation that is still yet to make the final of a World Cup. Starc (16) and Cummins (14) survived 45 balls as they knocked off the final 20 runs to seal victory and book a date with India in the final.
"The good thing is a few of us have been there for a final before, so we can draw on that," Cummins said. "A couple of other guys in T20 finals as well. The stadium is going to be pretty one-sided I reckon. So you just have to embrace it and enjoy it."
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