Sunil Gavaskar column: South Africa face an uphill battle against Australia

South Africa are a proud sporting nation, but have nothing to show in the trophy cabinet in cricket

By Sunil Gavaskar

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South Africa captain Temba Bhavuma during a practice session. — AFP
South Africa captain Temba Bhavuma during a practice session. — AFP

Published: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 7:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 10:38 AM

Five times champions Australia have moved into top gear as they take on the South Africans at the Eden Gardens for a place in the finals. The kind of recoveries they have made in this tournament is nothing short of miraculous and it typifies the Australian spirit of never giving up.

Glenn Maxwell's double century and the extreme physical discomfort in which he scored it, is the stuff of dreams. From a totally hopeless position, he dashed the hopes of Afghanistan of qualifying for the semifinals. True, Afghanistan did not have the experience to play the moment and not think they had already won the match but still it was an innings of great physical courage and mental strength that took Australia home.

It's this same going to extreme lengths to do the impossible for Australia that the South Africans will be up against. They too, are a proud sporting nation, but have nothing to show in the trophy cabinet in cricket. Their rugby team recently won the World Cup and if the cricketers can take inspiration from that and go the extra mile, then they have the capability of putting it across the Aussies.

Their problem has been in getting the team off to a good start while batting, and apart from one game, they have invariably lost a couple of wickets or more in the first power play of 10 overs.

The middle order has been their strength with Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, and Heinrich Klaasen powering their way around with David Miller to land the killer punch.

In the bowling, Keshav Maharaj has relished bowling on Indian pitches and has been superb in the middle overs, not only keeping the runs down but also taking wickets. How their new ball attack of Marco Jansen, Lungi Ngidi bowl to the Australian openers will impact how Rabada and Coetzee need to bowl too.

Do these two fine bowlers come in, to stem the flow of runs? Or do they have to bowl to keep the pressure of the early wickets?

The Australian top three are a powerhouse and all are in great form. There's David Warner playing in his last World Cup and Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh, who hit the ball with incredible power.

Steve Smith's absence opened the door for Marsh to bat in that position and he has taken to it like a duck takes to water.

Then there's Maxwell. The cricketing world just witnessed with their jaws agape as to the miracle he unfolded last week. His bowling too is what Pat Cummins is relying on to keep the run flow down.

The fielding of both teams is outstanding and so there will be those thrills too for the Eden crowd. It's a wonderful opportunity for the Proteas to get rid of the chokers tag.

But against a team that has regained its mojo, it is likely an uphill battle. (Professional Management Group)

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