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Thursday, 16 November 2023 15:29

David Miller's century gives South Africa hope against Australia.

By Neil Manthorp.

David Miller struck a magnificent, heroic century in extreme adversity to give South Africa a glimmer of hope with a total of 213 after batting first in their World Cup semifinal against Australia at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Thursday.

Miller came to the crease at a wretched 24-4 and brought up his sixth ODI century from 115 balls with eight fours and five sixes in a desperate bid to keep his team alive and retain hope of a first World Cup final. He was dismissed for 101 with 16 balls of the innings remaining.

Heavily overcast skies, humid conditions and brilliant new-ball, fast bowling from Mitchell Starc (10-1-34-3) and Josh Hazlewood (8-3-12-2) saw the Proteas crawl to 18-2 in the first, ten-over Power Play before crashing to 24-4 in the 12th over.

It was a grim battle for survival for the first half of the innings epitomised by Rassie van der Dussen’s six from 31 balls during which he had almost no scoring opportunities.

Captain Temba Bavuma (0) edged the fourth ball of the match from Starc to ‘keeper Josh Inglis while Quinton de Kock’s attempt to relieve the pressure resulted in a skied drive to mid on where Pat Cummins held a fine, tumbling catch. De Kock’s three runs spanned 14 balls.

Aiden Markram (10) edged a drive against Starc to David Warner at deep gully and Van der Dussen’s painful crawl ended with a thick outside edge against Hazlewood to Steve Smith at second slip.

Miller found a willing ally in Heinrich Klaasen as the pace of the game changed with the introduction of legspinner Adam Zampa (7-0-55-0) with both men hitting him for a brace of sixes, Klaasen’s off consecutive deliveries on his way to 47 from 48 balls.

The transformative fifth wicket partnership of 95 ended when part-time offspinner, Travis Head, spun a delivery viciously to bowl Klaasen between bat and pad and South Africa were 119-6 when Head trapped Marco Jansen lbw with his next delivery.

The only other partnership of significance was established between Miller and Gerald Coetzee who batted with due care and attention for a worthy 19 from 39 balls with two gloriously driven fours before bizarrely ‘walking’ after a missed hook against Cummins.

Coetzee asked Miller whether he should review the decision but decided against it and had just left the field of play when television replays showed the ball to have missed his gloves before touching his shoulder on its way to Inglis.

Miller displayed intense clarity of thought during an innings which appeared in constant ‘crisis mode’. His shot selection was faultless, striking his attacking shots with power and precision while keeping as much of the strike as possible in the closing stages.

One delivery after reaching his century he made his first mistake with a hook shot against a Cummins slow-bouncer which landed in Head’s hands just inside the deep square leg boundary.

Australia omitted allrounder Marcus Stoinis in order to play both specialist middle order batters, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, and will be strongly favoured to reach their modest target of 214 and progress to the final, against unbeaten hosts, India, at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi.

Australia: David Warner, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood.