David Miller stood tall amid the South African batting ruins, scoring 101 off 116 balls for his first century at this World Cup, and second ever in tournament history, to steer his team from a precarious position and to one of respectability against an inspired Australia in the second semi-final at the Eden Gardens here in Kolkata on Thursday.
With cloud cover building ahead of the start of the game, and even stopping play for 45 minutes after the conclusion of 14 overs, the Australian pace bowlers, Josh Hazlewood (2/12) and Mitchell Starc (3/34) found swing, something that has eluded them on most occasions in this tournament.
The duo found edge of the bats and had the Proteas reeling at 24/4 in the 12th over with even their most successful batsman in the ongoing World Cup, Quinton de Kock failing.
This was only the third time in this tournament that the South African top four, responsible for some of the biggest totals, failed together. On the two previous occasions when they failed, against Netherlands and India, South Africa recorded their only losses of the tournament.
So this failure doesn’t bode well for them.
The going would have been tougher for them had Miller not buckled down to take the total beyond 200.
He ensured that leg-spinner Adam Zampa, the second highest wicket-taker of the tournament, went wicketless and was hammered for sixes.
Miller hit him for four of his sixes.
Heinrich Klaasen, who made 47 and shared a 95-run partnership off 113 balls with Miller, hit the Australian wrist spinner for both his sixes.
It took Pat Cummins to introduce part-time off-break bowler Travis Head to halt the partnership that had taken South Africa from 24/4 to 119/4.
Head got two off two balls, removing Klaasen with a ball that cut in to beat his defence, and then had Marco Jansen leg-before the wicket.
Miller, who may have opened his shoulders was once again forced into a rebuilding phase with bowler Gerald Coetzee as the two added 53 for the seventh wicket in front of 46,000-strong crowd. However, once Coetzee was dismissed, although wrongly according to replays, as the seventh wicket with the score on 172, Miller had to fight hard to get his team to 200.
The Proteas were eventually bowled out for 212 in 49.4 overs.
Pat Cummins finished with 3/51.