World Cup 2023: Australia favourites, but South Africa are loaded with match-winners

Going into this match, the Aussies are firing on all cylinders

By Ayaz Memon

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Australia's Glenn Maxwell during a practice session. — AFP
Australia's Glenn Maxwell during a practice session. — AFP

Published: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 12:41 AM

Australia’s rivalry with South Africa does not have much legacy value as with traditional foes England, nor is it as prickly as with Trans-Tasman neighbours New Zealand. However, it is one in which, in recent years particularly, seen both teams compete with great intensity to win. This undercurrent could make for a great match or, if any one side loses nerve, fizzle out into a no-contest.

As things panned out in the league phase Australia, after a stuttering start, got a tremendous surge of seven wins on the trot. Not just wins, but the manner in which these were achieved highlighted why Australia have such a great record in World Cups, and why they can’t be taken lightly.

Going into this match, the Aussies are firing on all cylinders. The top order – Warner, Head and Marsh – is flush with runs. In the middle, Labuschagne and Smith have come good, with the latter likely to replace Stoinis.

And, of course, Glenn Maxwell is a maverick talent who can win a match off his own bat from any situation.

The Aussie bowling is seasoned and boast high quality pacers as well as the highest wicket-taking spinner in the tournament. Maxwell fills up the need of a second specialist spinner adequately.

All of this makes Australia favourites in this semi-final, but South Africa are loaded with match-winners too.

Batters De Kock, Markram, van Der Dusssen, Klaasen and Miller can decimate any bowling attack. Rabada, Marco Jansen, Coetzee and Ngidi make a lethal pace foursome.

And don’t ignore how Keshav Maharaj has tied batsmen in knots with his left-arm spin. Tabrez Shamsi, a left arm wrist-spinner who bowls the wrong un, is also an option for the Playing XI.

Where Australia have been consistently good after losing the first two matches, South Africa have have been somewhat inconsistent. Brilliant at times, sometimes inexplicably mediocre, especially when chasing targets.In high pressure matches, mercurial teams can hit a zenith or the nadir. In the past this earned them the demeaning sobriquet of `chokers’ which Proteas fans will be hoping is not going to be the case this time.

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