Australia’s Mitchell Starc was looking forward to “a great spectacle of cricket” after his side book their spot in the World Cup final against hosts India.
Starc helped Australia conquer South Africa in the semi-final at Eden Gardens, claiming three for 34 and holding up his end in a vital partnership with captain Pat Cummins during the closing moments of a tense chase.
In the end Australia squeaked home by three wickets in a low-scoring encounter, with Starc’s new-ball burst doing a huge amount of heavy lifting.
The #CWC23 Finalists are confirmed 🙌🏻
India 🆚 Australia
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 16, 2023
He set the tone for the day by removing Proteas skipper Temba Bavuma in the first over, then dismissed Aiden Markram as he and Josh Hazlewood reduced their opponents to 24 for four.
The intensity is only going to be dialled up when they take on undefeated home favourites India in Ahmedabad on Sunday, with up to 100,000 locals ready to roar their nation on at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
And it is a prospect Starc is ready to embrace.
“It’s certainly going to be a big occasion, a World Cup Final in India. It’s going to be loud,” he said.
“I think it’s just going to be a great spectacle of cricket, no doubt. There’s going to be a lot of passion there. Certainly, everyone in our changing room is looking forward to it.
“I don’t think either changing room is new to big occasions. You want to take on the best and that’s why we play the game. They’ve been the best team in the tournament so far and we both find ourselves in the final. That’s what World Cups are about.”
Starc’s skipper, Cummins, was equally enthused about the prospect having been part of Australia’s last ODI world champion squad on home soil eight years ago.
“The stadium is going to be packed, pretty one-sided, but we’ve got to embrace it,” he said.
“The 2015 World Cup was a career highlight, so to be out there in a final in India, I can’t wait.”
Starc agreed with the idea that over the course of a hard-fought contest against South Africa, Australia’s victory lay in their aggression during the powerplay overs. While he and Hazlewood established a stranglehold over the batters, Travis Head and David Warner went on the attack as they raided 60 runs off the first six.
On both occasions, damage was done that could not be clawed back by the Proteas.
“We’ve seen throughout the tournament how tough the first 10 overs can be at certain times…when you’re willing to take the game on like that, sometimes you take a little bit of luck with you,” he said.
“It certainly went to plan with the ball today and the way we set up with the bat is to really be aggressive, take the game on and the freedom to give those guys to go out and play the way they like to.”
Losing coach Rob Walter gave South Africa credit for battling back into contention after their early collapse, making 212 on the back of David Miller’s 101, and insisted the age-old tag of ‘chokers’ was no longer fitting.
“It’s obviously gutting to lose a semi-final but beyond that, I’m incredibly proud of the fight shown by the lads,” he said.
“I guess you need to define what a ‘choke’ is. For me, a choke is losing a game that you’re in a position to win. In this instance, we were behind the eight ball right from the word go and we actually fought our way back into the competition and put up a score that gave us a chance.
“For me there’s nothing even remotely close to a choke that happened out there today. It’s a serious contest between two good teams, number two and three in the tournament.”