David Miller stood tall with a fighting century, the first hundred by a South Africa batter in the Men’s ODI World Cup knockouts, to take the Proteas to 212 in 49.4 overs against Australia in the second semi-final at the Eden Gardens on Thursday.
Electing to bat first under overcast skies, South Africa were rocked by Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc to be reduced to 24/4, before Miller soaked in pressure and hanged around to make 101 off 116 balls, hitting eight fours and five sixes, as he got a standing ovation from the crowd in the stadium.
Miller's century is also the first ton by someone batting at number six or lower in a Men's ODI World Cup knockout match. He stitched a 95-run stand with Heinrich Klassen and was severe on leg-spinner Adam Zampa, against whom he slammed all of his sixes in Thursday’s match.
In the afternoon, Australia's new ball pairing of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood did the damage by swinging the ball both ways to leave South Africa in tatters. Captain Temba Bavuma, who was not at 100% fitness, edged behind for a four-ball duck off Starc in the opening over.
Quinton de Kock ran out of patience and went for a wild slog to break free, but he was caught brilliantly by a back-pedalling Pat Cummins off Hazlewood. Aiden Markram edge to backward point off Starc while Rassie van der Dussen’s loose drive ended in the hands of second slip, as Australia were in driver’s seat straightaway.
Cummins was superb in keeping Starc and Hazlewood relentlessly, as well as ground fielding being impressive, kept two slips consistently to keep the pressure on - meaning South Africa took 52 balls to score their first boundary. South Africa were 44/4 in 14 overs before rain interrupted play for 35 minutes.
Post resumption, it appeared that the pitch has eased out. Miller landed opening punches by clearing his leg and smacking Zampa for a couple of sixes over mid-wicket fence. It was Klaasen’s turn to cash on against Zampa, pulling him twice over mid-wicket for two sixes, before Miller smacked a full-toss over the same region for another maximum.
Klaasen lofted and flat-batted Travis Head for back-to-back fours, before the part-time spinner bounced back by castling the right-handed batter and had Marco Jansen lbw the very next ball to put South Africa in trouble again. Miller brought up his fifty with a cut past point off Glenn Maxwell for four.
With Gerald Coetzee giving him some support, Miller peppered mid-wicket to down the ground arc with boundaries. The 53-run stand came to an end when Coetzee gloved a pull off Maxwell behind, only for replay to show it missed the glove.
After Keshav Maharaj toe-ended to mid-off, Miller pulled thrice, last of which went for six, to get him his hundred. But right after reaching three-figure mark, Miller pulled straight to mid-wicket off Cummins, before Kagiso Rabada holed out to long-on to end South Africa’s innings at 212.
Brief Scores: South Africa 212 in 49.4 overs (David Miller 101, Heinrich Klaasen 47; Mitchell Starc 3-34, Pat Cummins 3-51) against Australia
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