South Africa’s quest for a first appearance in an ICC Men’s World Cup final has finished in heartbreak once again, but captain Temba Bavuma was proud of his team for the character they showed in the “dogfight” at Eden Gardens on Thursday.
The three-wicket loss to Australia was the Proteas’ fifth World Cup semi-final defeat, dating back to 1992.
Bavuma’s charges were on the back foot from the outset, with the skipper – who was only passed fit on the morning of the match – being dismissed for a three-ball duck.
This led to a greater collapse, with the Aussies reducing the Proteas to 24-4.
But courtesy of an excellent David Miller century (101) the Proteas managed to post a respectable 212.
“Congrats to Australia, all the best for them in the final.
They were outstanding for a large part of the game and thoroughly deserved victory,” Bavuma said.
“But our character came through. It was a dogfight. The way we started with the bat and the ball was probably the turning point; we lost it quite badly there.”
“Presented with the conditions and the quality of the attack, they really put us under pressure. They were ruthless.”
However, South Africa fought bravely with the ball, even after a rapid 61-run first-wicket stand between Australian openers Travis Head and David Warner.
The fightback was started by part-time off-spinner Aiden Markram, who dismissed Warner, but it was young fast bowler Gerald Coetzee and wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi – who were filled with passion and pride – that delivered excellent spells with two wickets apiece to keep the Proteas’ challenge alive.
“Shamsi was terrific. We were competitive, but we needed a lot to go right. We had chances – tough chances – but we put them down. Could have been more proactive, but you need things to go your way.
“As a young guy, he (Coetzee) was a warrior. There wasn’t much happening for him to bowl like that and get the wicket of (Steve) Smith (to) get us back into the game. He kept on going until he was cramping.”
The World Cup was also star wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock’s final ODI tournament, and now due to the defeat, he has played his last game for the Proteas.
The 30-year-old had an excellent tournament as he signed off with four centuries over the past six weeks. Bavuma offered the left-hander the highest praise.
“Outstanding tournament. Would have wanted to end on a different note, but he’ll remember the fight we showed as a team. We’ve enjoyed playing with him. In SA, he will go down as a legend of the game,” Bavuma said.
Australia will now take on hosts India in Sunday’s final in Ahmedabad.