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Australia, bringing out their ‘veri’ best in knockouts

World Cup final
Australia qualified for their 8th World Cup final by beating South Africa yet again in the semis

When an Australian team advances to the World Cup semifinals, it feels authentic. The Tamil word for anger or extreme ferocity is veriis. It’s a phrase that became viral ten years ago when a song with the same name received 418 million views online. Even if they don’t make it to the finals, this is the song most Tamil families will identify with the Australian squad.

Most people will remember Australia’s 16 November triumph over South Africa at Eden Gardens as another spectacular squeaky-bum fight between the two sides. The 1999 World Cup match between these two teams will be used as a point of reference. In this article, we will discuss how close this game actually was, how many opportunities South Africa had, Steve Smith’s bewildering shot, the pitch’s tendency to spin, and the Proteas’ history of failing to win close games. South Africa’s chances of winning the game with the bat and the ball both diminished as the night progressed, and much time will be spent thinking back to those moments. The South African top order’s lack of confidence in the powerplay will be analyzed thereafter, regardless of how difficult the conditions were to bat in and in light of the bravado with which they had attacked every previous powerplay in the World Cup leading up to the moment of truth.

However, when sifting through the details of a close finish that, in some ways, might have gone any way, it becomes clear that Australia was successful at the opening phases of both innings. And they did so while displaying a great deal of enthusiasm. And before we even get into how brilliant the initial spurts from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were, the first burst of excitement on the field came not surprisingly from David Warner. A person who has always served as an example of it, if not the very embodiment of it. As the most senior player on his team, he made three diving saves at backward point to prevent definite limits. Marnus Labuschagne didn’t want to be left out, so he made a similarly athletic halt under the sheets.

When the conditions are favorable, such as they were on Thursday afternoon in Kolkata with the looming threat of a tropical storm, Starc is one of the few fast bowlers who can release the new ball with more verithan he does. The lights were on at the Eden Gardens, the sky was dark and Starc was doing what he does best in these settings, by drawing first blood and putting the scene up for his side. The first-over dismissal of Temba Bavuma was only the beginning. When it comes to strategy, Josh Hazlewood and his new-ball partner have quite different understandings. The foundation of his pitch is his ability to claim and then exploit his designated territory to exert unyielding control over the opposing hitter. When a seasoned New South Welshman adds in some seam movement off the pitch, he becomes one of the most formidable opponents in contemporary cricket. Quinton de Kock skied an attempted hoick and was caught by a similarly pumped-up Pat Cummins, who took a wonderful catch sprinting back and then turned on the move. This sort of verias well in a celebrator is quite unusual. And then, in typical Warner fashion, he flung himself to the right, where he disposed of Aiden Markram. After Hazlewood nipped off Rassie van der Dussen and the score dropped to 4/24, there was only ever going to be one victor. Even if David Miller did give his team an opportunity to stay in the game before the South African spinners tried making a match of it.

Travis Head’s knock and David Warner’s veri-filled cameo had already broken the back of South Africa’s defense of 212 by the time Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi came on to bowl in the second innings. Head and Warner went crazy in the opening six overs of Australia’s innings, as they always do, guaranteeing that the South Africans would always be playing catch-up no matter what they did. By the time Maharaj came on to bowl on a pitch ideal for his guile, Australia had already scored nearly half of the runs they needed to go to the final in Ahmedabad, thanks in large part to Head’s relentless onslaught. But that’s how the Aussies always seem to win the knockout rounds. They swing for the fences, knock you down quickly, and spend the rest of the match focusing on keeping you there. Australia always had enough time and space to not have to panic whenever South Africa attempted something like that.

Cummins, for the umpteenth time this year, shepherded a tight run-chase, and he and Starc calmly led Australia to victory. And it was a different type of verion show to watch him twirling his bat as he raced back for the second run, as if without a care in the world, like a man who’d just had a fantastic day at work and was ready to get on with the rest of his life. It wasn’t as confrontational or cocky as you might expect from a former Australian captain, certainly not one that the people of India could identify with. Here we see Cummins displaying his lofty sense of self-assurance and faith in his team’s ability to come through in the clutch.

Cummins and his squad would need a lot more to upset the apparently unstoppable Indians in Ahmedabad on November 19 though. As five-time defending champions, they will approach the Narendra Modi Stadium with the weight and aura of that title. The song suggests, however, that they may need a little more of it—perhaps even some Kolaveri—to successfully break a billion hearts.


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