The group stage of the World Cup came to a conclusion earlier today, with India taking on Sri Lanka at Headingley in the day fixture and Australia squaring off against South Africa in the D/N clash at Old Trafford. Let’s take a look at our talking points from the day’s action.
South Africa’s batting finally clicks, and sends Australia to Birmingham for their semi-finak
South Africa vs Australia as a World Cup clash brings back memories of that great game between the two sides back in the 1999 edition of the tournament.
The Proteas have been one of this tournament’s biggest disappointments, but with nothing to lose, they turned the tables on Australia at Old Trafford with a fantastic batting display. For the first time in this tournament, they got off to a flying start with the bat after winning the toss. With Hashim Amla out injured, Aiden Markram was asked to open the batting with Quinton de Kock, and the flurry of fours at the beginning of the South African innings forced opposition skipper Aaron Finch to turn to spinner Nathan Lyon as early as the 6th over of the game.
Markram and De Kock both departed before the 20th over, but the foundation had been set, and it allowed Rassie van der Dussen, traditionally a bit of a slow starter, time to get himself in. He was 5 (25) before going on to smash 95 in 97. Faf du Plessis scored the Proteas’ first century of the tournament, and South Africa were able to set Australia an imposing 326 to win, which proved to be 10 too many for Justin Langer’s men at the end.
How South Africa would’ve loved the tournament to begin today instead of the 40 odd days before that it did!
And in sending Australia to Edgbaston, a ground known to favour England historically, they might have sounded the death knell for their great opponents’ hopes of defending their crown. Edgbaston was also the venue for that SA-Aus 1999 semi-final that began Australia’s dominance over the 50 over format.
Rohit Sharma writes himself into the history books
With a hundred against Sri Lanka, Sharma not only took India to the top of the table, but also broke the record for most centuries in a single World Cup. In the absence of the injured Shikhar Dhawan, Sharma has taken on added responsibility and handled it with aplomb.
He’s also not too far away from Sachin Tendulkar’s record for most runs (673) at a single World Cup. And the way he’s been going, few would bet against him achieving that record as well!
South Africa’s fielding sees them stave off a spirited Australian comeback
There were three great pieces of South African fielding today at Old Trafford- first the run out effected by De Kock to dismiss Marcus Stoinis (one which even MS Dhoni would’ve been proud of), the second a leaping catch, again by De Kock, to dismiss Glenn Maxwell, and the third a stunner from Chris Morris to take out David Warner just as Carey and he were beginning to take the game away from the Proteas.
They had a few lapses in the field- most notably in the form of missed run outs, but this was a far superior effort in terms of catching, and it helped them end their tournament on a high.
Alex Carey the unsung hero for Australia at CWC 2019
With a first class average of 29, few would’ve expected Alex Carey to have the impact he’s had on this tournament. The wicket keeper nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat here, and may be promoted to No.5 in their semi-final against England, given the stunning form he’s been in.
A few alarm bells for Australia?
Australia still remain formidable opponents, as evinced by their never say die attitude during the chase that saw them score nearly 200 in their last 25 overs despite having effectively lost half their side.
However they appear to be in a bit of disarray- Shaun Marsh has already been sent home injured, Usman Khawaja’s tournament looks over after a hamstring issue, Marcus Stoinis had a side strain and even Mitch Starc needed the physio to attend to his knee. At this rate, Marsh Jr and Peter Handscomb may need to make their first appearance of the tournament in the cauldron of a World Cup a semi-final against the hosts at the “Bear Pit”
Not quite panic stations for Australia yet, but England will fancy their chances to advance to the final. Even Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis said he expected the hosts to meet India in the decider at Lord’s in a week’s time, when quizzed about it by Mark Nicholas at the post-match presentation.
The semi-finals will be India vs New Zealand and England vs Australia- same as the first WC warm-up fixtures for these four sides played on May 25.