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Australia's Mitchell Marsh and David Warner during their match against Bangladesh in the World Cup 2023 at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. Image Credit: ANI

Kolkata: Mitchell Starc on Monday said Australia have lived up to their reputation of “peaking at the right time” after overcoming a shaky start to win seven straight World Cup matches.

The five-time champions take on South Africa in the second semi-final in Kolkata on Thursday after the two teams ended on 14 points each in the group stage.

Australia lost a one-day series in South Africa followed by a series defeat to India ahead of the World Cup.

They then suffered opening defeats at the tournament to the hosts by six wickets and the Proteas by a huge 134 runs.

“It’s been quite busy, the guys who were in Africa as well, I think we counted it’s like our 15th flight since we’ve been in India,” Starc said on the gruelling schedule.

“For the guys who were in Africa as well, it’s been a jam-packed 10 or 11 weeks. It’s a World Cup, it’s what we play for. We seem to be peaking at the right time which Australia tend to do in tournament play.”

The left arm-quick added: “Whilst we didn’t start the way we wanted to, we’ve certainly had good contributions from individuals along the way and we find ourselves in another World Cup semi-final.”

Australia have been the most successful team in the World Cup with title wins in the 1987 (India), 1999 (England), 2003 (South Africa), 2007 (West Indies) and 2015 (Australia and New Zealand) editions.

They were runners-up in the inaugural edition in 1975 and then again in 1996, reached the quarter-finals in 2011 and lost to eventual winners England in the 2019 semi-finals.

Starc, who was part of Australia’s 2015 ODI and 2021 T20 World Cup triumphs, said the experienced team will not be overawed by Thursday’s occasion at Kolkata’s iconic Eden Gardens.

‘Calm group’

“Whether it’s goosebumps or not, it’s just another game,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of one-day cricket ...(performing in big matches) is not something that’s really spoken about.

“It’s a very calm group, this one, and fairly experienced with a couple of younger, less experienced guys gelling in really nicely.”

Australia have beaten South Africa twice in World Cup semi-finals in 1999 and 2007. Both times they went on to win the title.

Starc, 33, and a veteran of 119 one-day internationals, was the leading bowler in the World Cups of 2015 and 2019 with 22 and 27 wickets respectively.

In all, he has 230 wickets in the format.

He and fellow quick Pat Cummins have 10 wickets each in the tournament so far with teammate and leg-spinner Adam Zampa leading the bowling charts with 22.

The lack of reverse swing, due to two balls being used in each innings at the World Cup, appears to be one of the factors for Starc’s lack of wickets.

‘Lot of factors’

“There’s a lot of contributing factors,” he said. “The wickets have certainly been two very different wickets, what gets through the day and through the night.

“Speed is not the be-all and end-all over here in India as well. How you go about that tactically, and whether it’s variations or what time you bowl through a game, or whether you win or lose a toss (can affect potency).”

“I certainly haven’t been at the level that I would have liked. But now there’s a chance at the pointy end to make the biggest impact.”

Starc, who missed a lot of cricket after the Ashes due a shoulder and groin injury, did not reveal the reason for sitting out the last match against Bangladesh.

“If I only played when I was 100 per cent, I would have probably played 10 games,” he said.

“All bowlers around the world deal with stuff, we just don’t have to talk about it like batters do.”