Australia to face England in WCup semis after loss to SA

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Australia will face fierce rival England in the Cricket World Cup semifinals after slipping from the top of the group standings with a last-over, 10-run loss to South Africa despite David Warner’s latest century Saturday.

Faf du Plessis’ 93-ball 100 underpinned South Africa’s 325-6 in Manchester, and two pieces of magic from wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock — a cheeky run-out and a leaping, one-handed catch — left the Australians struggling on 119-4, with batsman Usman Khawaja also retired hurt.

David Warner (122) and Alex Carey (85 off 69 balls) put on 108 for the fifth wicket, but neither could see Australia home as shadows lengthened on the field in the day-nighter at Old Trafford.

Khawaja (18), with his injured left hamstring, came out to bat at the death but didn’t last long and Australia needed 18 to win off the last over.

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Nathan Lyon was caught in the deep off the next-to-last ball.

Instead of finishing in first place and playing trans-Tasman neighbor New Zealand back in Manchester in the first semifinal on Tuesday, Australia must travel south to Birmingham to play the tournament host two days later.

It’s another huge England-Australia match in a summer that will conclude with the Ashes series. Either the world’s top-ranked ODI side or the defending champion will be eliminated.

“Yeah, it’s going to be a blockbuster,” said Australian captain Aaron Finch. “It doesn’t get much bigger than that, Australia vs. England in the World Cup semifinals.”

Group winner India will take on New Zealand in the other semifinal.

The Australians might have fallen short but at least they head into the playoffs having lost just two of their nine games, and with Warner in sublime form.

The left-handed opener has scored 638 runs in nine innings — just short of the tournament-high 647 racked up by India’s Rohit Sharma — and now has three centuries to his name this tournament.

Australia ideally needed him to last until the end of the chase but he succumbed to a superb diving catch by Chris Morris and departed to jeers, once again. Indeed, South Africa’s catching was excellent in general, not least from De Kock who soared into the air to take Glenn Maxwell (12) soon after flicking a ball onto the stumps — while looking the other way — from Kagiso Rabada’s throw to run out Marcus Stoinis (22).

Earlier, the South Africans got off to a fast start by reaching 73-0 by the end of the opening powerplay. Australia offspinner Lyon removed openers Aiden Markram (34) and De Kock (52), only for Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen (95) to quickly restore Proteas supremacy with a stand of 151 runs for the third wicket.

Du Plessis reached three figures in 93 balls — and was dismissed off his very next delivery for 100. The highlight of his innings was a straight six off paceman Pat Cummins after advancing down the track.

Van der Dussen has yet to convert any of his ODI fifties, however. He couldn’t get enough of the strike in the final two overs and tried to smash the last ball of the innings for six to reach his ton. He was caught on the boundary by Maxwell.

Australia paceman Mitchell Starc (2-59) bowled erratically but took two late wickets to move to 26 for the tournament, tying the record for a single World Cup with compatriot Glenn McGrath (from 2007 in the Caribbean).

Only one team had chased down a first-innings total as big as 326 in the World Cup. That was Ireland, which made 329-7 in reply to England’s 327 in Banglalore in 2011, and it proved slightly too much for Australia.

South Africa scored its highest total of a tournament in which the team finished with three wins in nine games.

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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