Pre-tournament, the organisers were licking their lips at this match. Potentially, it could have been the battle for the fourth and final spot in the semi-finals. Even if both were already secured of a semi-final place then it’d at least set up the semis.
That’s what they were thinking when they planned this as the last match of the tournament. Instead we had a dead rubber, with South Africa trying to climb up to seventh instead of eighth, and Australia trying to finish first instead of second.
At least it wasn’t 100% dead, as Australia would much rather face New Zealand than England in the semi-finals, but it wasn’t to be. South Africa showed the kind of form that could have won them this World Cup, and showed why they were 4th favourites to win it. They earned a lot of pride in their win over what might end up being the champions.
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Five Things We Learned:
(1) South Africa don’t suck
A lot of people have made fun of South Africa in this tournament but there was no laughter in this match as they played at their best to beat Australia, in a match that was more important for Australia than South Africa. Faf du Plessis was man of the match for his century but Rassie van der Dussen was close behind, just barely running out of overs to get his, as he was out last ball for 95 going for the 6 to get to his century.
(2) Australia don’t suck either
If you think that Australia were taking it easy to save themselves for the semi-finals, you’d want to talk to David Warner in his fighting century. His 122 off 117 balls, when wickets were falling around him and Alex Carey’s incredible 85 off 69 balls almost stole the match. Then there was Usman Khawaja coming back after being injured early on. Australia really fought this out.
(3) The tournament stuffed South Africa around as much as anything
Much has been written about how India started a week later than everyone else, and how New Zealand got to play easy matches early on, but little has been written about how much the opposite was true for South Africa. We can perhaps forgive the scheduling that gave New Zealand easy games and South Africa hard games to start with, but we can’t forgive the deliberate action of starting South Africa early and India late.
Imagine if this had been South Africa’s first game, they’d beaten Australia, and, buoyed by this win, went on to beat England and India. Then, no matter how spirited Bangladesh’s fight was after losing early wickets, they still wouldn’t have won. South Africa could have been undefeated through the group stages. While a champion team overcomes such unfairness, it doesn’t stop it being unfair, and we saw in this game what could have been had things been a bit fairer.
(4) Rassie van der Dussen might be South Africa’s next captain
He has been the one highlight for South Africa, the one who didn’t get depressed and negative when all was falling around him, and in this match he showed what he could well do. One commentator said that Faf du Plessis, the current captain, was batting with Rassie van der Dussen, the future captain, and it kind of felt like that as they batted together, as if they were handing over a torch.
(5) There is something to be said for not booing
Sure, so Faf du Plessis has the most convictions for ball tampering of any player in history, so that might be why he is as forgiving as he is of Smith and Warner’s alleged transgressions, but it was still kind of nice that he didn’t want them to be booed and made a speech in their defence. Maybe it was self-serving but maybe he is a nice guy.