Australia edge low-scoring thriller to book spot in eighth ODI World Cup final

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Australia 215 for 7 (Head 62, Shamsi 2-42, Coetzee 2-47) beat South Africa 212 (Miller 101, Klaasen 47, Starc 3-34, Hazlewood 2-12) by three wickets

Yawn. Australia is in another World Cup final.

Except these weren’t Steve Waugh’s mentality monsters or Ricky Ponting’s Invincibles. These men were fallible. They almost didn’t make it. South Africa refused to let them.

Interestingly, the goal of winning was also the score that both immensely watchable teams had achieved in what was for a long time the best ODI ever played. 213.
This classic, like the one from 1999, owes a lot to the spinners. Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi were not turning the ball but helping him develop his own mind. They operated in tandem for 16 overs, producing a point once every two balls, a false delivery once every four balls and almost the same number of wickets as boundaries: 3 against 4.

The men they sacked were Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne and, most importantly, Glenn Maxwell for a duck.

Australia were 137 for 5.

How did this game come about?

South Africa had recorded its lowest score of 10 or more in 15 years of ODI cricket. 18 for 2. They reached this semifinal scoring that same number of runs in a single on 14 occasions. The most fearsome batting lineup of the tournament was shut down like a computer caught by a virus. Only David Miller was immune. He went up 101 for 1 from his side. The others collapsed at 100 for 9 of their own.

Things didn’t get much better in the chase either. South Africa needed 52 balls to get their first goal. Australia needed two. Marco Jansen scored 12 runs in one delivery. Reeza Hendricks dropped Head in the 40th over and saw him score a hat-trick of fours (one of them was also a fall) to reach his half-century. More than half the score they had to defend had vanished in the 15th over.

All the ghosts of knockouts past had arrived at Eden Gardens, popcorn and all.

Shasmi, however, told them to whistle till the end. He was the one who made Labuschagne look very, very foolish in the 16th over, an lbw shout rejected even though his leg was literally before the wicket. He was the one who knocked down Maxwell’s leg stump, a long hop that suddenly morphed into perhaps the most important delivery of this game, sneaking under the bat that last week had conjured a double hundred to recover a lost cause and in Leg. stump.

Shamsi surrounded the entire square in celebration. Temba Bavuma maintained better control of his feet but his eyes were alight.

The ghosts of knockouts past had begun to flee when Josh Inglis entered.