“Win the toss and bat first” is an adage almost as old as cricket. It is generally believed that making the first use of a pitch is almost always the right move. It gives the batters a chance to bat when the track is supposedly at its best. And in Indian conditions, batting first has been a no-brainer often.
So, when Australia takes on South Africa in the second 2023 ODI World Cup semifinal at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, one would assume conventional wisdom will reign supreme.
The numbers batting first in this World Cup for both teams further reaffirm this belief. The Proteas have racked up four totals more than 350: 428/5 vs. Sri Lanka, 399/7 vs. England, 382/5 vs. Bangladesh, and 357/4 vs. New Zealand, while the Aussies have done it three times: 367/9 vs. Pakistan, 399/8 vs. the Netherlands, and 388 vs. New Zealand.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s two defeats in this tournament have come while batting second, against India and the Netherlands, and it only avoided defeat to Pakistan with a narrow one-wicket win.
On the other hand, the Aussies come into the semifinals having aced two chases, versus Afghanistan and Bangladesh, in two contrasting situations.
Mitchell Marsh smacked a 132-ball 177 as Australia reached its target of 307 against Bangladesh with 32 balls to spare. Earlier, Glenn Maxwell had hit a jaw-dropping double hundred to lift his team from a precarious 91 for seven, chasing 292 against Afghanistan.
That said, the weather could also impact the decisions at the toss. There is rain forecast for Thursday in Kolkata, and teams generally like to know what they are chasing in such situations.
Of course, South Africa has a chequered past when it comes to rain. South Africa, in its first World Cup in 1992, was on the cusp of reaching the final when rain stopped play, with 22 needed off 13 balls for victory against England.
But, by the time rain stopped just 12 minutes later, the equation read an impossible 22 off one ball under the then rules governing rain-affected matches.
Clearly, history, numbers and form will play on the minds of Temba Bavuma and Pat Cummins when they walk out for the toss in Kolkata.
ODI STATS AT EDEN GARDENS
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