Australia v South Africa, ICC U-19 World Cup, semi-final, Townsville August 21, 2012

'Dropped catches hurt' - Bowes

South Africa aren't in the final of the Under-19 World Cup because they slipped up against accurate bowling during their batting Powerplay and couldn't take the chances Australia gave them while defending a low total.

They lost three wickets for 10 runs during the five-over period of fielding restrictions between overs 36 and 40, leaving them with little firepower for the finish. Their fielders then dropped two sharp chances off Kurtis Patterson and one off Cameron Bancroft, who combined together for a 95-run stand to set up the successful chase of 191.

Chad Bowes, the South Africa captain, thought the target was defendable, especially at Tony Ireland Stadium, where batting has been hard. "We saw yesterday Pakistan almost defending 130, and if we had taken our chances we would have defended it easily," he said. "We can't win semi-finals with a fielding performance like that."

The first chance was the toughest, when Patterson cut the ball high in the air over the infield at point and Prenelan Subrayen ran forward and to his left to try and reach the catch. He got hands to it as he dived full stretch but failed to hold on. Patterson was on 29 at the time and Australia 59 for 2. The life Patterson got on 37 was more straightforward, as Shayne Pillay grassed a hard cut at point. Bancroft was let off on 23 by Theunis de Bruyn at slip, the easiest chance of the lot. Calvin Savage was the unfortunate bowler all three times, and two balls later Bancroft hooked him for six.

"We all had the belief [that we could win] but after a few went down you could see the guys' heads starting to drop," Bowes said. "We try and keep the belief going within the squad, we did fight back but it was just a bit too little too late. Seems we didn't have any luck today, starting from the toss, we [should just] try and keep our heads up high and work towards the third-place playoff."

South Africa did have bad luck. Having come up from Brisbane, where they played their group games and won all three, they came up north to Townsville and lost the toss in both the quarter-final and the semi-final. Batting in the morning has been hardest at Tony Ireland Stadium and to their credit South Africa, after getting sent in, fared better than some of the sides that have been based here throughout the World Cup. Early wickets have routinely fallen against the new ball on a pitch that has had up-and-down bounce and seamed as well.

Against England, South Africa had been 15 for 1 but recovered to score 244. Today they were 4 for 2 and did not recover. "I think today's conditions were a bit tougher than against England, I also think the Aussie bowlers utilised the conditions better," Bowes said. "They kept it in the right areas and gave us nothing to score off. They built pressure well and didn't release it at any stage during the innings."

Bowes had steered his team through the new-ball threat against England by scoring 46 and batting until the 19th over. He scored 46 against Australia too, but had to toil for much longer, until the 35th over, leading South Africa to 125 for 3. After taking the batting Powerplay in the next over, Bowes was struck on the helmet first ball and dismissed by the second. The innings went off the rails thereafter and South Africa made 191 after looking set for 220.

"They [Australia] bowled well as a unit, they bowled in partnerships and the pressure was from both ends," Bowes said. "So by the time the 35th over came, there wasn't any momentum from our side. We just had to try and tick it over.

"I think momentum is key going into the end of an innings, so we knew we had to up the rate [in the Powerplay], even if was just by one or two runs an over. We backed ourselves to score at a decent rate, it was unfortunate that at the beginning of the Powerplay we lost key wickets."

Bowes is presently the leading run-scorer in the tournament, 271 in five innings, and has one match - the third-place playoff - to try and stay at No.1. While he said it was pleasing that he had been successful on his first tour to Australia, Bowes said it wasn't a priority. "I didn't come into the tournament wanting to have that goal. The goal was to get to the final," Bowes said. "I would take the World Cup over the most runs any day. But it's good that I'm able to adapt to these conditions."

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo