Once again, South Africa experienced the familiar sting of semifinal defeat at the Cricket World Cup, this time at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India. The recurring narrative unfolded, with Australia emerging triumphant and showcasing their unparalleled ability to shine on cricket’s grandest limited-overs stage—a stark contrast to South Africa’s historical challenges.

In the tense encounter on Thursday, the term “choking,” often associated with South Africa’s World Cup performances, did not apply, yet it marked the Proteas’ fifth elimination in the tournament’s semifinals. Previous exits occurred in 1992, 1999, 2007, and 2015, with three of those setbacks inflicted by Australia.

The echoes of the 1999 and 2007 defeats reverberated in this latest loss. Facing formidable bowling from Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, South Africa found themselves at 10-2 after eight overs, resembling the early collapse in 2007. Despite David Miller’s resilient innings of 101, guiding them to a total of 212 all out, South Africa needed an exceptional fielding performance to stave off the Australians.

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Crucial drops, totaling four, plagued the South African fielding effort. Marco Jansen’s three wides in four balls and missed opportunities to dismiss Travis Head and Steve Smith added to the frustration. In the late innings, spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj applied pressure on Australia, but the opposition, led by Josh Inglis, Mitchell Starc, and Pat Cummins, secured the crucial runs.

Reflecting on the match, South African captain Temba Bavuma acknowledged the turning point: “Looking at the result of the game, the way we started with the bat and the ball was probably the turning point and where we lost it quite badly.” Despite boasting a powerful batting lineup, key players, including Quinton de Kock, faltered on the semifinal stage.

Bavuma credited Australia’s outstanding performance, particularly highlighting the ruthlessness of Hazlewood and Starc. The Proteas captain acknowledged the pressure they faced, stating, “When you are 24-4, you are always going to struggle to get a competitive total.” The loss left South Africa reflecting on missed opportunities and the ongoing quest to progress beyond the semifinals at the Cricket World Cup.

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