So long, World Cup

Australia trounced South Africa by seven wickets on Wednesday to move smoothly into the final of the Cricket World Cup, chasing down a paltry target of 150 with 18.3 overs to spare.

Australia’s bowlers blew away South Africa, reducing them to 27-5 before the Proteas rallied to reach 149 all out, Justin Kemp top-scoring with 49 not out.

In reply, Australia set up a repeat of the 1996 World Cup final with Sri Lanka with innings of 41 from Matthew Hayden and an attractive 60 not out from Michael Clarke. Australia have reached their fourth successive World Cup final and are seeking an unprecedented third consecutive title.

Hayden hit four fours before he skied Shaun Pollock’s delivery for captain Graeme Smith to catch. With the score on 110, however, the damage was already done.

Clarke and Andrew Symonds finished the task off with ease and Australia head to Barbados for Saturday’s final, looking unbeatable.

South Africa have now played in three semifinals since 1992, but have never reached the final.

Wednesday’s victory at the Beausejour Stadium was set up by magnificent work from pace-bowlers Shaun Tait and Glenn McGrath. Tait roared in to take 4-29 with his thundering deliveries, while 37-year-old McGrath took 3-18 from eight overs.

McGrath is the leading World Cup wicket-taker and will retire from one-day international cricket after Saturday’s final. He has already retired from Test cricket.

He said he had been helped by a strong breeze. ”It allowed me to swing the ball a bit and I haven’t done that for a while.”

South Africa had said they would match Australia’s power cricket, but it was the wrong tactic as batsmen failed to deal with pace and accuracy, finding edges that wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist snapped up, and the innings collapsed.

The one-sided score would have been much worse had it not been for a 60-run partnership between Herschelle Gibbs and Kemp, who came together with the score on a humiliating 27-5.

Gibbs made 39 and all-rounder Kemp was left on 49 not out while wickets tumbled around him.

McGrath did the initial damage to dismiss Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher. Prince and Boucher were out off successive deliveries.

Nathan Bracken made the breakthrough with the third ball of his second over. South Africa captain Graeme Smith charged the left-arm paceman but missed the ball, which knocked over his off stump, and South Africa was 7-1, with the captain scoring only two.

Kallis had just scored his first boundary when McGrath tore his off stump out of the ground with a yorker to send the Australian fielders into raptures with South Africa 12 for two in the sixth over. Kallis was seen as South Africa’s dangerman.

AB de Villiers looked dangerous until Tait was brought on in the eighth over. The right-hander smacked his first ball for four but, reaching speeds of 155km/h, Tait was too fast for the opener and he edged a drive to Gilchrist behind the stumps for 15.

De Villiers had looked the most comfortable of the South African batsmen. At 26 for three, however, South Africa’s hopes of reaching the final were evaporating fast. They then disappeared altogether when McGrath grabbed the two wickets in two balls.

McGrath had been top bowler of the World Cup until Tuesday, when Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan edged past him with four wickets in the victory over New Zealand. McGrath soon corrected this with three of his own to take his total to 25, a record for any World Cup.

Prince had faced just four balls when he got an edge to a McGrath delivery and Gilchrist took another catch, and then Boucher departed first ball, edging the ball to Hayden at first slip. The hat-trick ball missed its mark.

Gibbs and Kemp made the most of the less threatening bowling of Shane Watson and spinner Brad Hogg. Gibbs scored six fours in his 39 in 49 balls before he also fell to Tait, mistiming a drive and presenting Gilchrist with another easy catch.

Andrew Hall scored just three before he presented Gilchrist with his fourth catch of the match and South Africa were 93-7.

With last man Langeveldt at the crease, Kemp cut loose, hitting four fours and a six. — Sapa-AP

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