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Australia’s careless collision with the South African juggernaut

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On Thursday, October 12, South Africa defeated Australia by a massive 134 runs in Lucknow thanks to a masterful all-around performance. With the wickets of Mitchell Marsh, David Warner, and Steve Smith in the first Powerplay alone, the Proteas effectively ended the match after posting a respectable total of 311 thanks to Quinton de Kock’s second consecutive century. Australia was unquestionably in trouble at 70/6, and the margin of defeat would have been greater if not for a 69-run combination between Marnus Labuschagne and Mitchell Starc. South Africa outplayed Australia in every element of the game in what was a display of absolute dominance on their part.

Australia would have hoped that the surface would smooth out under the lights after deciding to bowl, with dew due to arrive later. Unfortunately for them, South Africa’s quicks fully exploited the new ball by nibbling at it far more than it did in the afternoon. In the opening Powerplay, Marco Jansen and Lungi Ngidi began off brilliantly by getting the ball to talk noticeably and restricting the run flow. Marsh finally cracked under the pressure when he erred against Jansen and Warner soon fell, smashing a cut straight to backward point off Ngidi. Smith, who made a menacing start with four delicious boundaries, was solely responsible.

But the most contentious part of the Australian innings followed. Kagiso Rabada, the first replacement bowler, put Smith out leg before wicket after the Australian had missed a rare flip shot following the signature shuffle around the sticks. In real time, it didn’t appear to be out, but ball tracking revealed that it had hit the leg stump, shocking Smith. Even the South African players were in awe of their good fortune, and after that victory, Australia appeared absolutely unhinged. In his first stint, Rabada was on fire and delivered a peach to get rid of Josh Inglis, who finished a disappointing day in the middle with bat and gloves.

The flamboyant movement was challenging enough on its own, but the amount of spin available made Australia’s assignment nearly impossible. Keshav Maharaj received a straightforward return catch from Glenn Maxwell, while Marcus Stoinis, in a contentious move, became another of Rabada’s victims. It was a short ball that sailed off the glove and down the leg-side. UltraEdge clearly displayed a spike, but it was unclear if Stoinis’ top and bottom hands were connected to the bat at the same time. Third umpire Richard Kettleborough decided he had seen enough to give the marching orders despite the insufficiently conclusive visuals. Australia was miffed, not for the first time. At 70/6, it was time to focus on damage control.

Labuschagne and Starc lingered as the surface softened and dew began to fall, making batting easier. Despite the remarkable change in conditions, Australia had no batting left to make a match of the game. South Africa’s bowlers had a field day, capitalizing on the conditions and scoreboard pressure to demolish the Australians. The total of 311 appeared to be par at the midway point, and in retrospect, it was probably just above par. South Africa’s innings was set up by Quinton de Kock’s second World Cup ton and Aiden Markram’s smooth fifty.

Both batsmen didn’t cause the same devastation as they did against Sri Lanka in Delhi, but that was largely due to the conditions on offer in Lucknow. The track performed much better than the IPL games due to a relaid surface with red soil, but it was still on the slower side. There was varying bounce, and slower balls were more difficult to score on, especially as the ball aged. Australia was sluggish to heed the memo and had their radar completely off for the whole of the innings. They also failed to take advantage of the new ball’s mobility.

De Kock took advantage of all of these blunders, and his century stand with Temba Bavuma laid the groundwork for South Africa to reach a competitive score. The former lost speed during the innings, but Markram’s brilliance ensured that the momentum was maintained during the middle overs. Toward the end, Australia dialed in their lines, lengths, and tempo variations, staging a solid comeback at the death. However, a series of lost catches throughout the innings resulted in them allowing at least 30 runs more than they should have. In the end, the five-time champions were unable to meet the challenge.

Brief scores: South Africa 311/7 in 50 overs (Quinton de Kock 109, Aiden Markram 56; Glenn Maxwell 2-34, Mitchell Starc 2-53) beat Australia 177 in 40.5 overs (Marnus Labuschagne 46; Kagiso Rabada 3-33, Keshav Maharaj 2-30, Tabraiz Shamsi 2-38) by 134 runs

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