Proteas deny 'choke' as Aussies prove Powerplay kings

Australia's bowlers enjoyed their best Powerplay of the tournament so far, while their batters continued their new-ball blitz, keeping South Africa behind the game from the start

Aussies claw their way to final in captivating low-scoring semi

South Africa insisted their latest World Cup semi-final exit was not a choke, instead suggesting Australia's brilliance with and against the new ball effectively decided their tense contest in Kolkata.

The Proteas' wait for their first appearance in a men's ICC limited-overs tournament final goes on after they were knocked out in the semis of an ODI World Cup for a fifth time, three of those now coming at the hands of the Aussies after they won a low-scoring clash by three wickets.

Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc took advantage of a used Eden Gardens surface in the early afternoon as Australia had their best Powerplay of the tournament with the ball by restricting their opponents to just 2-18 from the first 10 overs.

South Africa soon slipped to 4-24, a sharp contrast to David Warner and Travis Head pumping 60 off the first six overs of their reply under lights.

"Powerplay wickets have probably been not our strong suit through the tournament," said Starc after capping a strong match by scoring 16no to help his side reach South Africa's 212 with 16 balls to spare.

'Discipline' with ball and in field was key: Starc

"The way Josh bowled throughout to finish two for 12 (from eight overs) was incredible. It was very, very inconsistent pace whilst it did probably nip a little bit, there was a little bit of swing.

"I think the inconsistencies made it tough to bat on with that first 10 overs that we bowled.

"Looking at Josh's pitch map, that's what he does so well in Test match bowling. He was incredible today and the way we run off each other to have that Powerplay that we did and carry some momentum through the middle was how we want to start matches.

"It was nice to do it in a big game."

Warner and Head are one of ODI cricket's most destructive opening combinations and in this tournament have become an even scarier proposition since being emboldened to attack from the get-go.

Having hit 0-118 in one 10-over burst against New Zealand earlier in the tournament, the duo went just as hard in the high-stakes match against the Proteas on a surface that became increasingly difficult to score on as it deteriorated under lights.

"We've seen throughout the tournament how tough the first 10 overs can be at certain times of the day, with the two out and the hard new balls," said Starc.

"When you're willing to take the game on like that and sometimes you take a little bit of luck with you but the guys were fantastic in that opening partnership.

"It certainly took some pressure off early with the way that the guys started and obviously, much needed with how we saw the back end of the game and giving ourselves a bit of extra time not to have to go so hard at the end."

The 'chokers' tag has been difficult to shed for South Africa after famously tying the 1999 World Cup semi-final with Australia, and having bowed out in 1992 and 2003 after rain-delay mix-ups. They have also fallen at the penultimate hurdle in 2007 and 2015.

But South Africa coach Rob Walter dismissed the notion their latest defeat was continuing a legacy of failing to perform under pressure.

"I guess you need to define what a choke is. For me, a choke is losing a game that you're in a position to win," said Walter.

"In this instance, we were behind the eight ball right from the word go and we actually fought our way back into the competition and put up a score that gave us a chance. Then again, they got off to a flyer and we fought and we put ourselves back into the game

"Of course we were 30 runs or 40 runs short, but still having them seven down and a couple of things – balls bouncing just short, a little inside edge that could have been taken – so for me there's nothing even remotely close to a choke that happened out there today."

Oliver defended how his top-order had approached their innings after captain Temba Bavuma won the toss and batted first, as has been their preference in this tournament.

Australia get perfect start, Cummins takes a classic catch

The early volatility of the surface surprised them as Starc and Hazlewood needed less than 12 overs to knock over the Proteas' entire top four, each for 10 runs or fewer.

"The first 10 overs on either side separated the game," said the coach.

"If you’re watching the movements of the batters, I don't think we were tentative at all. Rassie van der Dussen was across the crease, he was down the wicket. Quinton (de Kock) was trying to manage his way through the Powerplay and then try to then take something on aerially and got out.

"It's easy to say that you go out and play aggressively, but when the ball's bouncing so steeply and is moving laterally, your options are fairly limited.

"Aiden Markram came in with great intent, put a few boundaries away and then again got one that stopped up on him and ended up getting out caught.

"I had no issue with the intent of the top four, watching the way that they were moving in the crease. It wasn't like we were defensive and just trying to survive.

"We actually were trying to make a play, but it was just you had two quality bowlers that weren’t missing, and they were getting some assistance. That makes it tough."

2023 World Cup Finals

First semi-final: India beat New Zealand by 70 runs

Second semi-final: Australia beat South Africa by three wickets

November 19: Final, India v Australia, Ahmedabad (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT