As the sun set on South Africa’s Cricket World Cup campaign, the Proteas landed a parting blow on old foes Australia on a glorious evening at Old Trafford.
Faf du Plessis called for a show of pride from his side in their last game of what has been a miserable tournament and he got it on Saturday.
Du Plessis led by example with South Africa’s first century of the World Cup, scoring exactly 100 with great support from Rassie van der Dussen (95).
Australia fell short on 315 in reply to 325-6 in a pulsating final group match, so the holders must pack their bags and head to Birmingham to face England in a semi-final at Edgbaston next Thursday rather than stay in Manchester to take on New Zealand.
South Africa have long since been out of contention for a place in the last four, but they left their mark despite another brilliant hundred from David Warner (122) and Alex Carey’s brutal 85.
You would have thought it was Du Plessis’ men bound for the semi-finals rather than Australia given the way they celebrated what was an eighth win in the last nine ODIs between the two fierce rivals.
As Imran Tahir and JP Duminy marched off the field after ending their ODI careers on a high note, the defending champions looked like a team that had let an opportunity slip through their fingers.
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) July 6, 2019
Usman Khawaja is highly unlikely to face England after suffering another hamstring injury, while Marcus Stoinis is a doubt with a side problem.
Shaun Marsh suffered a fractured forearm in a damaging week when he was struck by a ball from Pat Cummins in the nets, so Peter Handscomb may be thrown straight into the heat of a showdown with the hosts.
Australia will at least have an extra two days to prepare for a blockbuster last-four clash with Eoin Morgan’s men and in Warner they have a player at his brilliant best.
The opener should have been run out in the first over when Kagiso Rabada threw to the wrong end capitalised on that let-off by crafting a third hundred of the tournament.
A busy Warner batted with power, skill and great application in his first match against South Africa since a ball-tampering fiasco at Newlands which resulted in him being banned for a year.
There were more boos and jeers for Steve Smith and Warner in Manchester, where South Africa fans must have been left with mixed feelings, wondering why the Proteas left it so late to show what they can do.
Australia must regroup and Warner could have a major say in whether they shatter England’s hopes of being crowned champions for the first time on home soil.