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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

World Cup 2023: At venue of memories, Australia and South Africa seek final pass at Eden Gardens

For Proteas, they have a chance to make history at the venue which had welcomed them back to international cricket 32 years ago in the post-Apartheid era

Sayak Banerjee Eden Gardens Published 16.11.23, 08:38 AM
South Africa’s Temba Bavuma during the practice at the Eden on Wednesday.

South Africa’s Temba Bavuma during the practice at the Eden on Wednesday. Sanat Kumar Sinha

Most of the players of the current Australian squad were either not born or were toddlers when Allan Border and his teammates lifted the World Cup for the first time at the Eden back in 1987, beating England in the decider.

Since then, in more than three decades, Australia have won four more World Cup titles. But in all these years, 36 to be precise, they have never played a World Cup match at the Eden after that ‘87 final. That’s going to change on Thursday, when the Aussies take on South Africa in the second semi-final of the 2023 World Cup.

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If they win, it will be their eighth successive win of the tournament and will take them to Ahmedabad for a shot at their sixth title. So the Eden presents them with yet another opportunity to script a special moment.

For the Proteas, they have a chance to make history at the venue which had welcomed them back to international cricket 32 years ago in the post-Apartheid era. But that’s only if they beat the Aussies and make their first-ever World Cup final.

Australia’s Travis Head during the practice.

Australia’s Travis Head during the practice. Sanat Kumar Sinha

The atmosphere at the Eden when it hosts an international or IPL game usually sports a festive look. But on this occasion, with the venue set to host just its second 50-over Cup semi-final match (the forgettable India-Sri Lanka game in 1996 being the first), even the normal hustle seemed to be missing on the eve of the match.

One could feel and soak in a lot more excitement during the Bangladesh-Netherlands and Pakistan-Bangladesh matches — the first couple of games the stadium hosted — late last month.

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is still confident of a good turnout for this second semi-final. But with the possibility of a cloudy sky and chances of some rain as well on Thursday, it remains to be seen how many actually turn up to watch the game.

Australia and South Africa, though, will be more focused on the on-field matters. Proteas captain Temba Bavuma is still “not 100 per cent” fitness-wise since that hamstring strain, but is “confident” of making the XI.

Australia, on the other hand, aren’t too worried about Glenn Maxwell as he’s “all clear and fine” and just had a precautionary scan since his hamstring was a tad sore on Tuesday, Cummins stated.

To talk of the Eden pitch, it seems dry with a little more turn expected in the second session. Both Keshav Maharaj and Adam Zampa could be key in these conditions.

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