Australia has advanced to an eighth Cricket World Cup final after Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc combined for a late partnership to get their side home against South Africa on Thursday night. The Aussies won by three wickets in a low-scoring thriller, getting to the victory target of 213 with 16 balls to spare.
Cummins' side appeared to be cruising at 0-60 while batting second, before an all-too familiar ugly collapse of 5-67 left the game on a knife's edge. But the experience of Cummins and Starc got the Aussies home, with the veteran bowlers putting on a vital 22-run partnership on a pitch that was turning sharply.
Steve Smith (30) and Josh Inglis (28) made vital contributions after the middle order collapsed dramatically. After David Warner (29) and Travis Head (62) got the Aussies off to a lightning start, Mitch Marsh (0), Marnus Labuschagne (18) and Glenn Maxwell (1) all fell cheaply.
But Smith and Inglis steadied the ship, before Cummins (14 not out) and Starc (16 not out) knocked off the last few runs to add more heartbreak for South Africa. Australia will now take on India in Sunday night's final, marking the Aussies' eighth World Cup decider in history.
"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."
Cummins' composed innings marked the third time in the last few months that he's produced a match-winning partnership in a tense run chase. Cummins and Nathan Lyon put on 55 with two wickets in hand as Australia won the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, before the Aussie captain played a pivotal role in Glenn Maxwell's extraordinary double century against Afghanistan at the World Cup.
Cummins made just 12 off 68 balls, but played his role to perfection as Maxwell got Australia over the line when they looked dead and buried. "I think it's easier out there than sitting in the dugout," he said. "It was a nerve-wracking couple of hours."
Pat Cummins stars with bat and ball in semi-final
Before this year, Cummins' batting had tailed off at international level since he became captain. He spent April and May at home working on his batting and hitting thousands of balls with coach Trent Woodhill - and it has paid off.
"Over the last couple of years I found switching between formats hard," Cummins said in June. "I feel like my T20 batting has got a lot better, probably at the detriment to Test rhythm at time. Hopefully, there can be a bit more of a balance between the two."
Australia will need to be much better against India on Sunday if they have any hope of winning a sixth World Cup. But there were promising signs against a Proteas side who have never won a semi-final at an ICC event.
The Aussies' bowling in the powerplay had been widely critiqued throughout the tournament, but Starc and Josh Hazlewood set up the win with their incredible bowling early. The pair had South Africa reeling at 4-31 after 13 overs, snaring two wickets epiece.
Hazlewood had figures of 2-12 from eight overs - the most economical of any Australian player in 17 years bowling at least eight overs in an ODI. Starc took 3-34 from 10 overs to grab his best figures of the World Cup amid questions over his form, while Cummins also snared 3-51 and took the crucial wicket of David Miller for 101.
What a wonderful game at the Eden Gardens. SA’s semi-final curse continues. Miller scored a great 100, but the start Head gave Aus was the difference. DeKock missing that catch in the end could have been a turning point.
And Pat “Doesn’t get out” Cummins continues with his knack… pic.twitter.com/KlEhjLDkTw
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) November 16, 2023
Australia under Pat Cummins
•Won Ashes at Home
•Retain Ashes in England
•Won ICC Test Championship
•Now 8th World Cup Final
Pat Cummins- The Leader🙌 pic.twitter.com/sZHV0mqax7
— KKR Bhakt 🇮🇳 ™ (@KKRSince2011) November 16, 2023
— ᴘʀᴀᴛʜᴍᴇsʜ⁴⁵ (@45Fan_Prathmesh) November 16, 2023
— Shubh Aggarwal (@shubh_chintak) November 16, 2023
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc take Australia to the final - A mature and important partnership.
South Africa will have 4 more yrs to get their Semi final record corrected.
Heartbreak for many!
An India Vs Australia classic at Ahmedabad for the 🏆 !#SAvsAUS
— Arvind Ramachander 🐾 (@arvindia4u) November 16, 2023
This is the first time ever across all Men's ODIs World Cup events;
2 Tail-enders(No.8-11) have played more than 150 balls from the same team...
Pat Cummins even became the batter who faced most no. Of deliveries in these batting positions...#AUSvSA#CricketWorldCup2023… pic.twitter.com/cYfDNkB7vU
— Abhishek AB (@ABsay_ek) November 16, 2023
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