Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada produced the best bowling performance of the tournament to date as South Africa beat three-time former champions Australia by 80 runs in the second semi-final of the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.
Rabada, who came into the match with seven wickets, returned figures of 8.2-0-25-6 as Australia, chasing 231 for victory, lost their last seven wickets for 54 runs to be bowled out for 150 in 42.2 overs.
Rabada dismissed the top three batsmen to leave Australia reeling at 33 for three, and then returned to rip the heart out of the Australian middle and lower middle-order with some fast, aggressive and accurate bowling.
The only Australia batsman to bat with some confidence was Jake Doran who scored 36 while captain Alex Gregory contributed 31.
The two batsmen put on 66 runs for the fourth wicket in about 22 overs before the partnership was ended when Rabada brought off a smart catch at mid-off to dismiss Gregory.
Both the batsmen fell to Corbin Bosch who finished with impressive figures of two for 25.
Wednesday’s result means both finalists from 2012, Australia and India, will now feature in the play-offs, while Saturday’s final will be between two-time former champions Pakistan and South Africa, who have previously reached the final in 2002 and 2008.
Earlier, South Africa survived a middle-order collapse to post a competitive total on the board.
Wicketkeeper-opener Clyde Fortuin hit a classy 74 and captain Aiden Markram scored a polished 45 as the two batsmen put on 105 runs in less than 21 overs for the first wicket.
This was their first century partnership of the tournament and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Fortuin, who later excelled behind the stumps by bringing off three smart catches, hit eight fours in a 92-ball innings.
Markram, who fell to a spectacular catch by Guy Walker in the gully, hit four fours in a 63-ball 45.
Fortuin, after the departure of Markram, added 45 runs for the second wicket with Kirwin Christoffels (20) to take the score to 150 for one in 30 overs before South Africa lost the plot and stuttered to 230 for nine, thanks to Yaseen Valli’s 36-ball 31 with three fours at number-six.
Matthew Short snapped up two for 14, Billy Stanlake claimed two for 36 while Ben Ashkenazi picked up two for 37.
Rabada later said: “My plan was to stick to line and length, and bowl fast. I’m glad that this paid off.
“It is important that we keep our feet on the ground and stay relaxed and composed for the final.”
Markram praised his side for putting up an impressive show, when he said: “It’s an amazing feeling to be in the final. We are delighted but we’ll move forward with our feet on the ground and we will take on the next challenge that lies ahead.
“It is amazing to have Rabada in your armoury. We can call on him whenever, wherever and I believe he was due for this performance. I am extremely happy for him that it paid off.”
Looking ahead to the final, Markram added: “Pakistan has always managed to put out a good side at any level of cricket, so we’re definitely not going to take them for granted. I think it is of massive importance to come here with calm heads and to just enjoy playing in the final.”
South Africa, the only unbeaten team among the four semi-finalists in the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup, will go into Wedensday’s semi-final with an extra dose of motivation after watching their senior team beat Australia in the second Test at Port Elizabeth.
Graeme Smith and co beat the in-form Australia by 231 runs to level the Test series, but for skipper Aiden Markram and his boys, a more important battle is at hand as they aim to continue their fine form in the tournament and convert it into a place in the final against Pakistan.
South Africa have twice reached the final of the premier world tournament for the U19 boys, but have never managed to lift the trophy. In 2002, they lost to Australia, while in 2008 in Malaysia, India beat them in the final. Australia have been crowned champions three times and they were runners-up to India at home in the last edition.
Based on their current form, South Africa start favourites. Apart from the fact that they have not lost any match so far, they also beat Australia in both matches they played during an international youth series in India last year.
However, Markram is not willing to take the Aussies lightly. Speaking to Sport360° after their nets session last evening, he said: “It is a massive match for us and we are taking nothing for granted. We may have been unbeaten so far, and we did have some good wins over Australia in the past, but tomorrow is a new match.
“Of course, we saw how the senior side came back after losing the first Test and levelled the series. We are very proud of them, and their performance gives us some extra motivation going into the match.”
Markram (259 runs) is the leading scorer, while seamer Justin Dill (10 wicket from three matches) has taken the most wickets for the young Proteas.
But the go-to man for them has been all-rounder Yaseen Valli, who has scored a century, two knocks of 53 and taken eight wickets with his left-arm spin.
Markram, who has hit back-to-back centuries in his last two matches including an unbeaten 105 against Afghanistan in the quarter-finals, is delighted with his own form and the team’s progress.
The Centurion-born 19-year-old also downplayed the lack of form of his opening batting partner Clyde Fortuin, as well as the absence of wickets from his opening bowlers.
“Clyde is a very experienced player for us and he has played many international matches. I think it is just a matter of time he comes good and plays a big knock. We are hoping that happens tomorrow,” said Markram.
“As for the bowlers, we are very happy with their performances. Obviously, Justin and Yaseen have taken more wickets, but the openers have built up the pressure on the opposition.”
So, is there an Australian player they have marked out, one they would like to target early?
“The Australians are a good all-round side. If you ask me for one, it would probably be Jake Doran because he is their best batsman. But we really have to concentrate on all of them,” Markram said.
Australia’s South African-born opener Jaron Morgan, who immigrated with his parents to Australia as a three-year-old, said they are expecting a tough match against the country of his birth.
“A semi-final in a World Cup tournament is always pretty huge, especially for me as well with South Africa-Australia,” Morgan said. “Everyone’s pretty excited; we’ve played them before so we know what to expect and how they’ll be – pretty intense and disciplined.
“I think we’ve got to keep it as simple as we can, play to our strengths, and the runs will come.”
West Indies narrowly edged their way past Afghanistan by nine runs in the ICC Under-19 World Cup thanks to a wonderful spell of bowling from seamer Ray Jordan.
Afghanistan seemed well set to chase down 216 target posted by the West Indies when they reached 204-7, but three wickets in the space of nine deliveries saw them collapse to 206 all out.
For much of the contest it seemed as though Afghanistan were going to be able to pull off another major shock, having surprised many observers by qualifying for the knockout stages thanks in large to defeating Australia.
They claimed the wicket of the dangerous Tagenarine Chanderpaul for an 11 ball duck, while fellow opener Jeremy Solozano also fell without troubling the scoreboard.
Some impressive bowling from Fareed Ahmad (3-47) and Mohammad Mujtaba (3-46) then restricted the West Indies to a relatively low total, which could have been even worse had it not been for a brilliant 92 from number six Fabian Allen.
The 18-year-old helped his country recover from a slow start as he hit eight fours and four sixes, while Ramaal Lewis added a timely 27 before falling to Sharafuddin Ashraf.
Allen would eventually succumb to a straight delivery from Ahmad but Gudakesh Motie fired 17 to help the West Indies limp to 215-8.
Afghanistan made a strong start as Usman Ghani hit 23 from 19 balls before being run out by Nicolas Pooran, while his fellow opener Shahidullah Kamal was in excellent form as he fired 51 from 67 deliveries.
However, a series of wickets saw Afghanistan precariously placed at 97 for 5 but Hashmatullah Shaidi kept his side in the running with a gritty half century.
Nasir Jamal (30) and Sharafuddin Ashraf (21) would almost get Afghanistan home but requiring just 12 runs for another memorable victory they would lose three wickets for just two runs, with Jordan claiming two and Motie the final wicket.
The West Indies will now play India in a futh-placed play-off.