Australia are what Australia are, indefatigable and unyielding

Kumble: The difference between the two sides was the fielding (1:49)

The result might have been different if South Africa had taken their catches, says Anil Kumble (1:49)

A ball goes high off the top edge of a bat, and into the hush that descends on one of the planet's grandest cricket stadiums, pour out your whole world.

The batter is Quinton de Kock, one of your best ever in the format. When your batters cut their furious path through this tournament, he most of all wielded willow like a scimitar, reeling off four World Cup hundreds as your team put up totals like 428, 357, and 382.

As this ball shoots up to about the roof of the grandstand, it is bursting with meaning for you. Mixed into this moment are memories, anxieties, a faint sense that another promise is being punctured, a desperate hope that perhaps the promise can survive.

But as the ball descends, what matters for us is that about two metres before it would have hit the ground, there is a pair of hands there.

Our captain Pat Cummins has sprinted back from mid-on looking over his shoulder, whipped his body around halfway through, backpedalled about six metres, arched his back in the final second, and thrown up the reverse cup. What matters are the hands. They are at these exact co-ordinates, in the split seconds they need to be. What matters is that 34 balls into this game, there are only eight runs on the board, and this is the second wicket to fall.

Hands would continue to be there.

Thirty-seven-year-old hands like those of David Warner, as he launches himself around at cover, and Rassie van der Dussen's big drives find themselves stopped. Super eager hands like those of Marnus Labuschagne's at mid-off, because of which a boundary opportunity turns into just a single.

In the powerplay and some overs beyond, the ring we make around you must feel like a prison.

Our flying bodies are elastic. Our fingertips are velcro. We came hyped, psyched, amped, ready.

This is what it is. This is the big stage. We are its most common occupants, and you are only visitors. We don't so much have Big Match Energy as a Big Match State of General Existence.

Before you know it, you are 24 for 4. Dazed.

There will be a rain break. Your middle order will stage something of a recovery. Your David Miller will hit an excellent hundred. And though many will have expected of you meekness, you will refuse to back down, your tailenders hitting boundaries as you post 212.

But maybe all of what you can produce, digging into the deepest parts of yourself, is only an opportunity for us to showcase what we are. Maybe you are the canvas, and we are the paint.


Tabraiz Shamsi is a stampede all on his own. By himself, he is a herd of enraged Cape Buffalo rounding on an animal that has ventured too close.

The stumps of Glenn Maxwell are lit up, and your Shamsi is bellowing as he thunders down the pitch, bellowing as he rounds the broken wickets, bellowing as he tears down the other side of the pitch, limbs pumping, his team-mates, the match, the entire stadium all in tremor. We are five down for 137.

This is a moment on which you have begun painting your flag, and perhaps many can see why. Your close fielders look like they have 10,000 volts run through them every time the ball passes the bat, or an edge is taken, or the ball hits a pad.

Earlier, your Aiden Markram had spun a ball past Warner and taken his off stump out. He spat a word at the departing batter that is unprintable in its original Afrikaans, and unprintable in any honest English translation, but electrifying in its context. Not long after, your Keshav Maharaj, the No. 1 ODI bowler in the world, took a wicket with his first ball and wore a scowl so spectacularly fierce you wondered if smiles had disappeared altogether.

But what matters to us is when glares are being thrown and hard-spun deliveries are skidding in at pads and stumps, is that bats come down at the right time, at the right place, in ways that the balls are struck into appropriate gaps. Steven Smith makes a 30 off 62 that features only two fours, and no little resolve. He'd once stared down Wahab Riaz in the spell of Wahab's life, and taken Australia to a comfortable victory.

In Pakistan, the Wahab spell is beloved; for us, that World Cup win is barely remembered.

There are other contributors to our chase. Your fielders launch themselves around the field, look for run outs, though they could have been better with the catches. We pull back when we need to, because Travis Head has already smacked 62 off 48 balls, and 106 had been hit inside 14 overs. Warner has made 29 off 18.

We have bowlers down to No. 9 who can bat, and will. We have batters like Head, who can bowl big, ripping offbreaks and do things like take two vital wickets at a vital time. And we can win passages of play so emphatically, they should have closed down the game. But you kept coming at us.


This is a semi-final in the biggest tournament cricket has. However good a World Cup you have enjoyed, you have to rise to this stage. You have ghosts of World Cups past to overcome, messy national reconciliation questions to navigate, and words that feel devastating to you to quell from the global cricketing consciousness.

We play as if we are born to this stage. As if the limelight is where we are most at home.

In fact, many of our followers at home only ever watch us here. They turn on to cricket for the grand Boxing Day Test match, watch us through the start of the new year, put us way in the backs of their minds through the little tours as other sports engage them, and then switch on to us again when we're at the tense end of a tournament yet another time.

They expect excellence. We expect to oblige them.

Over many decades this limelight has not exposed us; it has made us glow. We've been in seven ODI World Cup finals before this, won five of those, were T20 champions until last year, and are current Test champions. Many words have been written about how indefatigable we are. Many such words will be written again, many years into the future.

Through the afternoon, you fought bravely. Through the evening you were ferocious. When you made mistakes, you refused to be weighed down by them.

But you are you, and we are we, and this is how things will always tend to turn out because although you threw every atom of yourselves into the battle, although you crashed into us time and again in mighty, unrelenting waves, we know that eventually the storm breaks, the tide goes out, and the waters recede. What is left are the cliffs, which are tall, timeless, unyielding.