Australia will head into their semi-final clash with South Africa at the Cricket World Cup full of confidence, but an unforeseen element looms as a potential threat. Pat Cummins' side have won seven games on the trot following back-to-back losses to India and South Africa to start the tournament.
The Aussies will be looking for revenge when they take on the Proteas on Thursday, after India and New Zealand clash in the first semi-final on Wednesday. But some worrying weather forecasts have emerged as a potential threat to Australia's hopes, with South Africa in the box seat should rain play a factor.
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The forecast for Kolkata is looking pretty bleak, with a 60 per cent chance of rain on Thursday and 70 per cent chance for Friday. There is a reserve day available if weather ruins things on Thursday, meaning the game can be completed on Friday.
But if a result can't be reached on either day, South Africa will advance to the final on Sunday because they finished higher on the table than Australia. The Aussies and Proteas both finished the group stage with seven wins and 14 points, but South Africa's superior net run rate put them second and Australia third (1.261 compared to 0.841).
There is also a reserve day available on Monday if a result can't be produced for Sunday's final at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. But if the weather doesn't play ball in Kolkata the Aussies won't have to worry about the final. It would be a cruel way for Australia's campaign to end after finding top form at just the right time.
Looking ahead for a moment:
Aussies will officially finished 3rd - they can’t pass SA in 2nd spot now on NRR. There is rain forecast on both Thursday and Friday (reserve day) in Kolkata… if no result - it means SA would advance and play in their first WC Final.
— Neroli Meadows (@Neroli_Meadows) November 11, 2023
South Africa's semi-final warning to Australia
South Africa thrashed Australia by 134 runs in the group stage, which came after they won a five-game series 3-2 in the lead-up to the World Cup. But the likes of Mitch Marsh and Glenn Maxwell have come into form at the perfect time for Australia, both blasting big scores in the last two games.
But South Africa's bowling coach Eric Simons suggested Maxwell's double century might not have come about if he was facing some stiffer opposition. "You’ve got to use the situation as best you possibly can. I think the tactics they (Afghanistan) bowled to him probably suited him, just the way he was playing,” Simons said over the weekend.
"I think you’ve got to assess the situation. One of the things you’ve always got control over is the tactics and field placings you use, and I think our field placings and tactics would have been different and that’s where we would focus. But obviously you can’t take away from an incredible knock and I think that’s one which is going to be spoken about for many, many years."
South Africa have never won a major trophy in white-ball cricket and famously 'choked' against Australia in the World Cup semi-finals in 1999. Asked about Australia's "mental hold" over the Proteas in big games, Simons responded: "We learnt an enormous amount about ourselves in the series against Australia in South Africa, when they came as hard as they did at us. We have specific tactics about who we want to bowl to which batter, how we want to bowl and manage that."
On Sunday night, India made it a perfect 9-0 in the group stage. Shreyas Iyer (128 not out) and KL Rahul (102) both smashed centuries as the tournament hosts scored a crushing 160-run victory over the Netherlands.
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