KOLKATA: Five-time champions Australia edged spirited South Africa by three wickets after a tense run chase to set up ICC World Cup 2023 final with unbeaten hosts India.
Set to chase a modest 213, the South African bowlers made it a tough task for Australia but they eventually chased down the total for the loss of three wickets and 16 balls to spare.
Openers Travis Head and David Warner scripted a flying start to the pursuit as they notched up 60 runs in the first six overs.
Proteas captain Temba Bavuma brought part-timer Aiden Markram into the attack and he straight away drew a much-needed breakthrough by dismissing Warner, who scored a quickfire 29 in 18 balls, hitting one boundary and four sixes.
Kagiso Rabada brought another success for South Africa in the next over by dismissing Mitchell Marsh (0), courtesy of a stunning catch by Rassie van der Dussen at the cover region.
Head was then joined by Marnus Labuschagne and the pair took Australia past the 100-run mark with the former racing to his brisk half-century.
The left-handed opener, however, failed to stretch his sensational knock as he was castled by Keshav Maharaj in the 15th over. He remained the top-scorer for Australia with a 48-ball 62 which included nine boundaries and two sixes.
Tabraiz Shamsi then struck twice in quick succession, dismissing Labuschagne (18) and Glenn Maxwell (1) as Australia slipped to 137/5 in 23.4 overs.
Experienced batter Steve Smith then put together a 37-run stand with wicketkeeper batter Josh Inglis before both fell victim to Gerald Coetzee in the span of 32 deliveries.
Both Smith and Inglis were notable run-getters for Australia with important cameos of 30 and 28 respectively.
South Africa were just three wickets away from playing their first World Cup final but a sensible partnership between Australian skipper Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc swept away their hopes.
The duo knitted an unbeaten 22-run partnership and steered Australia to a hard-fought victory.
Starc scored a cautious 16 not out in 38 deliveries while Cummins played an unbeaten 14-run knock.
Tabraiz Shamsi and Gerald Coetzee took two wickets each for South Africa while Maharaj, Rabada and Markram bagged one wicket apiece.
South Africa have to wait more to play their first World Cup final as the lost their fifth semi-final while the five-time champions will be playing at the biggest stage for the eighth time when they take on unbeaten India on Sunday at the picturesque Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Opting to bat first, South Africa got off to a disastrous start as they had slipped to 24/4 in 12 overs as pacers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood ran through their in-form top-order.
Following the slump, Miller, coming out to bat at number six, joined forces with Heinrich Klaasen and anchored the innings with a gutsy partnership.
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The pair added important 95 runs for the fifth wicket before Travis Head struck twice, removing set batter Klaasen and Marco Jansen (0), in the 31st over to dent South Africa’s recovery.
Klaasen scored a cautious 47 in 48 balls with the help of four boundaries and two sixes.
Meanwhile, David Miller, despite the double blow, stood his ground firm and kept the scoreboard ticking singlehandedly before he smashed Pat Cummins on the first delivery of the 48th over to complete his century.
The left-handed batter, however, failed to carry his bat all the way through and perished in the same over.
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He top-scored for South Africa with a scintillating 101. His 116-ball knock featured eight boundaries and five sixes.
Besides him, Gerald Coetzee and Kagiso Rabada added valuable runs at the backend, courtesy of their important cameos.
Mitchell Experienced pacers Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins led the bowling attack for Australia with three wickets each while Josh Hazlewood and Head bagged two wickets each.