Australia face ‘blockbuster’ England semi-final after losing to South Africa, India to meet New Zealand

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1st Semi-Final: India v New Zealand at Old Trafford on Tuesday
2nd Semi-Final: Australia v England at Edgbaston on Thursday

Australia will play England in a “blockbuster” World Cup semi-final after the holders suffered a dramatic 10-run defeat against South Africa at Old Trafford on Saturday.

David Warner marked his first match against South Africa since a 12-month ball-tampering ban with his third hundred of the World Cup, but it was not enough to prevent Australia suffering their second loss of the 10-team group stage.

Defeat on the penultimate ball meant Australia, who had already qualified for the semi-finals, failed to clinch top spot as India leapfrogged them to take pole position after beating Sri Lanka earlier on Saturday.

“It is a little frustrating. Davey Warner made a magnificent hundred and Alex Carey played a brilliant knock to get us close, but it was not quite good enough,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said.

Had Australia won, they would have faced fourth-placed New Zealand in the first semi-final at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

But instead they will play resurgent hosts England in the second semi-final at Edgbaston on Thursday.

“It’s going to be a blockbuster. It doesn’t get much bigger than Australia v England in the World Cup semi-finals,” said Finch, whose side beat England by 64 runs in the group stage.

Finch revealed batsman Usman Khawaja, who retired hurt before returning late in the match, could be ruled out for the rest of the tournament.

“It doesn’t look ideal for Usman. He will have a scan in the morning,” Finch said.

“The whole Australia A team is here if they need to be replaced. I imagine Usman will.”

Warner (122) and Alex Carey (85) got Australia to within sight of a stiff target of 326 during a fifth-wicket partnership of 108.

But neither could see their side home to victory after South Africa captain Faf du Plessis made 100 and Rassie van der Dussen a career-best 95 in a total of 325-6.

“What a game. It is always a pleasure to play Australia and it was a nice close game. We wanted to go home with at least a small smile,” Du Plessis said.

Australia were struggling at 119 for four and Warner could only watch as wickets fell early against a Proteas side whose own semi-final hopes had long since disappeared.

Finch, Warner’s opening partner, went for three, when he chipped Imran Tahir to short cover, sparking a typically exuberant celebration from the bowler.

Steve Smith fell lbw for seven to Dwaine Pretorius.

– Nail-biting –

But Warner held firm, going past 600 runs for the tournament, with his latest century coming up in 100 balls when he edged Chris Morris for his 12th four.

He was eventually out when a drive off Dwaine Pretorius was well caught by a diving Morris at mid-on.

Carey, however, launched Tahir for six during his career-best ODI knock before his 69-ball innings ended when he carved Morris to Aiden Markram at deep cover.

Khawaja helped get the target down to 25 off 12 balls before he was bowled for 18 by Kagiso Rabada.

The target eventually became 18 off a nail-biting last over — bowled by Andile Phehlukwayo — with one wicket standing.

And with 11 needed off two balls, last man Nathan Lyon holed out to Markram in the deep.

Earlier, Mitchell Starc equalled Australia legend Glenn McGrath’s World Cup tournament record of 26 wickets, set at the 2007 event in the Caribbean, with a return of 2-59.

Markram (33), opening after South Africa veteran Hashim Amla was ruled out with a knee injury playing football in a warm-up on Friday, and Quinton de Kock (52) set the tone in front of a sun-drenched crowd in a first-wicket stand of 79.

Du Plessis, who drove fast bowler Pat Cummins for a superb six, completed the first hundred by a South African at this World Cup in 93 balls.

Van der Dussen fell short of his maiden ODI hundred when, trying to hit the last ball of the innings for six, he holed out off Cummins.

Teams Positions:

1st: India (15 points)

Played: 9 | Won: 7 | Lost: 1 | NR: 1 | NRR 0.809

India wrapped up a comfortable victory against Sri Lanka in their final group stage match in Saturday’s early encounter at Headingley with their line-up purring in all departments. Having expected a long drive down the country to Birmingham, Virat Kohli’s side long had their feet up by the time Australia finally fell over against South Africa and would have been pleasantly surprised to have their travel plans re-jigged for the shorter journey to Manchester and a pitch far more suited to their style of play. There they will face New Zealand, a side that has lost its past three group stage matches and enters the semi-final race as a distinct outsider. Rohit Sharma, who has already hit five World Cup centuries in this tournament to set a new record and is now eyeing off the overall run-scoring record held by Sachin Tendulkar. They will play the first semi on July 9, and should they progress through that, they will enjoy an extra two days rest before the final on July 14 in London.

2nd: Australia (14 points)

Played: 9 | Won: 7 | Lost: 2 | NR: 0 | NRR: 0.868

Australia’s campaign hit a glitch at the wrong time with a 10-run defeat to South Africa at Old Trafford in their final match of the group stage saw them slip from the top spot on the table and set up a mouthwatering blockbuster World Cup semi-final with Ashes foes England at Edgbaston on Thursday. It might well have been a sleepless night in the Australian camp, with a hamstring injury to Usman Khawaja to consider that could well have ended his World Cup campaign, while Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Starc both appeared in discomfort at points during the match. That all comes hot on the heels of Shaun Marsh’s fractured arm in the lead-up to the final group stage match after a brutal net session that had also seen Glenn Maxwell sent to hospital for x-rays. They beat England in their last meeting during the group stage as Jason Behrendorff ran riot with a five-wicket haul while England were in the midst of their own dip in form, but have since recovered. Australia’s coaching staff of Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin will be working overtime to ensure there’s a quick rebound for the defending champions. They have, after all, never lost a World Cup semi-final, but then again, they haven’t won an international at Edgbaston since 2001…

3rd: England (12 points) 

Played: 9 | Won: 6 | Lost: 3 | NR: 0 | NRR 1.15

What a difference a week makes. Having been almost on the canvas after their loss to Australia, England are now brimming with confidence after two thumping wins that have secured a semi-final spot for the first time in 27 years. They will now return to Birmingham for their semi-final and – with the other option being India – may well be buoyed to be facing Australia again. Since that reverse against Australia, England returned to form to thump India and New Zealand and enter the semi-finals back on a hot streak. With a jam-packed Edgbaston frothing at the mouth for a showdown between the two Ashes rivals, this could be the biggest and most important game for England cricket since final Test of the 2005 Ashes at The Oval.

4th: New Zealand (11 points)

Played: 9 | Won: 5 | Lost: 3 | NR: 1 | NRR: 0.18

Despite a third straight defeat to end the group stage, New Zealand have slipped into the top four with Pakistan unable to pull out a miracle to unseat them. The Black Caps beneficiaries of making the early running while Pakistan left to rue their sloppy start to the tournament. Unlike the top two places, the Kiwis have known where their semi-final berth would be and have headed to Manchester for their semi-final on July 9 where India await.

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