Australia has sealed its place in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup with a comfortable eight wicket victory over the South Africans at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
Australia overcame a slow start with the bat to easily chase down South Africa’s total of 5/146 with 14 balls remaining after sending the Proteas in.
Shane Watson again was the star for the Australians, scoring 70 and taking 2 wickets on his way to his fourth straight man of the match performance in this World Cup.
On a pitch more suited to bowling, Australia got off to a flying start with the ball with Xavier Doherty bowling opener Richard Levi off the third ball of the innings. His reinstatement into the team proved a masterful stroke by Micky Arthur, as Doherty also took the wickets of Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy on his way to figures of 3/20.
After losing their first three wickets cheaply, Duminy and captain AB de Villiers steadied the ship to take the score to 64 before Duminy was dismissed for 30 in the 10th over.
Scoring proved tough for the South Africans as they were well held by the Australians. Watson again was valuable with the ball taking 2/29 off his 4 overs.
After scoring at a paltry 6 runs per over until the wicket of de Villiers in the 15th over, the pair of Robin Peterson and little known Farhaan Behardien opened the floodgates to score 60 off the last 32 balls to push South Africa’s total to a respectable 5/146. Peterson finished on 32 and Behardien played his way to 31.
Facing the menacing pair of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, Australia struggled to get the ball off the square in the early part as both bowlers regularly had Dave Warner and Watson trying to force difficult shots to get the run rate going.
This was ultimately the undoing of Warner as he backed away from a Morkel yorker which bowled him for 5 in the third over.
However, the 2nd wicket of the innings came almost 10 overs later as Mike Hussey and Watson found their feet against the Proteas, expertly keeping the runs flowing until the boundaries came.
Watson found his touch in the 6th over, taking 15 off a Morkel over to open the floodgates and from there, de Villiers couldn’t find an answer for the Australian pair as they pummelled the bowlers to all parts of the ground.
The South Africans were terrible with their fielding, allowing numerous misfields to go to the boundary, as well as Wayne Parnell dropping Watson on 52 and de Villiers himself missing a stumping chance against Hussey late in the game.
By the time Watson holed out to Parnell, he had amassed 70 runs, including 8 boundaries and 2 sixes and had steered Australia into a commanding position at 2/109.
From then on, Australia was never challenged as Hussey and Cameron White charged home with White capping off Australia’s performance with a 6 to finish the game. He finished on 22, complementing Hussey who played second fiddle for much of the game, concluding on 45 as Australia closed on 2/147.
There wasn’t much to take out of the game for the South Africans, who had to rely on India winning against Pakistan to keep them in the running for a semi-final spot.
“Very disappointed. Just frustrating when we don’t click,” said de Villiers after the game. “I just can’t put my finger on one thing, it went wrong everywhere. They didn’t allow us to get off to a flier and we lost quite a few wickets and that didn’t give us the momentum.”
Watson’s amazing form in the World Cup was capped off when he was again awarded the man of the match award.
“Nice to be able to continue to play well,” Watson said about his performance. “I know how important my role is. It’s still a hell of a long way to go. Facing Steyn and Morkel was going to be a very big challenge. I knew if we got through the first four overs, we had to take on a few other bowlers but it was going to hold momentum for the innings.
Watson has now scored 234 runs to go along with his 10 wickets and 2 catches to have the most runs and wickets in the tournament. But he was quick to take the emphasis off himself.
“Hussey stabilised the innings. The top four batsmen are the ones who win you games consistently. Hussey took the pressure off me to score.”
Luckily for Australia, the top four batsmen have scored 482 runs this tournament and will be crucial in the impending semi-final clash. Australia’s next match is against Pakistan on Tuesday in Colombo.
Ben Sathananthan is a first year Sports Journalism student at Latrobe University. You can follow his twitter at: @bensathsports