Australia skipper Pat Cummins said his players will draw on experience from previous title wins in their World Cup semi-final clash with South Africa, spurred on by Glenn Maxwell’s heroics having given them “an extra leg”.
Five-time winners Australia went down to the Proteas in the league stage by 134 runs before they won seven straight matches to make the semi-final in Kolkata today.
Australia, who lost an ODI series in South Africa in September, have beaten their rivals twice in World Cup semi-finals.
“You start from scratch every time you play,” Cummins told reporters. “They’re a team we’ve played quite a lot and know quite well.”
“I think what helps us is we’ve got a lot of guys that have been in this situation before that have won the one-day World Cup, T20 World Cup, various other tournaments in big moments. So, I think that really helps. You can draw on that in the middle of the contest.”
The most dramatic World Cup semi-final between the two teams was a tied match in Edgbaston in 1999 with Australia moving into the final due to a better group stage finish.
Cummins said “the 99 World Cup one, it’s kind of folklore, isn’t it? I’ve seen that replay heaps of times, you hear the stories.”
Cummins, along with David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood was part of Australia’s 2015 World Cup triumph at home and their maiden T20 World Cup title win in Dubai in 2021.
At this World Cup, Australia began with two losses including a defeat to India in their opener but have been on a roll since and Cummins takes inspiration from the winning streak.
“You can either build it up as the most important game of your life, or you can business as usual, really,” Cummins said.
“And I think with experience, I think just keeping it pretty chilled and business as usual for our group seems to be the way to go. So, you draw back on those past wins but you also just draw back on the last few weeks and know that us at our best is good enough.”
Australia have witnessed some brilliant individual performances including an unbeaten 201 from Maxwell in their dramatic win over Afghanistan and a match-winning 177 not out from Mitchell Marsh against Bangladesh.
Maxwell defied predictions and played through cramps from a dire 91-7 to pull the team to victory in their chase of 292 at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
“As a team you grow an extra leg because you feel like you can win a match from anywhere and having someone like ‘Maxi’ in your team....he’s a superstar, he’s a freak, he can win a game from anywhere. Pretty glad he’s in our team.”
Rain is threatening the contest with downpours forecast in the eastern city today and during tomorrow’s reserve day.
“We’ll turn up, expect to play a 50-over match tomorrow, any of that shifts on us well. I’m sure in real time we can kind of adjust as needed,” said Cummins.
South Africa not playing a ‘Mickey Mouse team’ in semis, says Bavuma
South Africa skipper Temba Bavuma yesterday warned they are not up against a “Mickey Mouse team” in their World Cup semi-final against Australia amid feverish expectation of reaching their first championship match.
The Proteas won seven of their nine league matches to finish second in the 10-team table to book a final-four clash in Kolkata today. That run included a 134-rout of the Australians at Lucknow four weeks ago.
Five-time champions Australia are coming off seven straight wins at the tournament.
“A lot of people believe that this could be the year that we see ourselves in the final,” Bavuma, who remains doubtful to play the semi-final due his hamstring injury, told reporters. “We’d like nothing better than that. But we also respect the game of cricket. We’re not coming up against a Mickey Mouse team. Australia have a lot of experience and confidence in knockout games like this, so we’ve got to respect that.”
Bavuma said the mindset of his team remains confident ahead of the knockout contest.
“From a skill point of view, from a physical point of view, the guys are quite confident,” said Bavuma.
“There’s a sense of calmness within the team and obviously the normal level of anxiety that you would expect of going into the game tomorrow.”
He added: “But I think we’ll take a lot of confidence with our performances up until this point.”
Bavuma said he will look to play two frontline spinners, Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens. “Obviously, Keshav and Shamsi. We have Aiden (Markram) as well, who also gives us an option there. Then I think it’s just finalising in terms of the three seamers, who that may be,” he said.
Maharaj, a left-arm orthodox bowler, has claimed 14 wickets in nine matches while left-arm wrist-spinner Shamsi has seven off just three games.
Bavuma also praised wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock for leading the batting charge with his 591 runs, second only to India’s Virat Kohli.
“Quinton’s been magnificent for us,” said Bavuma. “At one point he was the leading World Cup scorer as well. Knowing Quinton, I don’t think he’s really paying much attention to all of that. I think his focus is on contributing as best as he can for the team.”
Australia's captain Pat Cummins (left) rests during a practice session ahead of their ICC World Cup semi-final against South Africa at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. (AFP)
South Africa’s captain Temba Bavuma stretches during a practice session at the Eden Garden Cricket Stadium in Kolkata ahead of their ICC World Cup semi-final against Australia. Right: Australia’s captain Pat Cummins rests during a practice session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. (AFP)