Sport

CWC 2023

Proteas sneak past Pakistan to charge to top of Cricket World Cup table

Proteas sneak past Pakistan to charge to top of Cricket World Cup table
Tabraiz Shamsi of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Pakistan's Iftikhar Ahmed during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and Pakistan at MA Chidambaram Stadium on 27 October 2023 in Chennai, India. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia / Gallo Images)

South Africa nearly threw the match away on several occasions, but cool, calm Keshav Maharaj ensured the Proteas beat Pakistan by one wicket on Friday.

South Africa have shot to the top of the Cricket World Cup table after a tight one wicket win over Pakistan on Friday at Chepauk Stadium in Chennai. 

Aiden Markram dashed a tidy 91 off 93 balls but had very little support elsewhere as South Africa chased down Pakistan’s par total of 270.

On the bowling front, it was player of the match Tabraiz Shamsi, who not only contributed in the winning 11-run partnership with Keshav Maharaj but also took four wickets to help restrict a stuttering Pakistan. 

South Africa were cruising to Pakistan’s total while Markram was at the crease but after he was dismissed it needed a rearguard show of resistance to get the Proteas over the line. 

The tail of Gerald Coetzee, Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi and Shamsi scrambled 25 runs between them to get South Africa over the line. Just. 

Markram was dismissed with South Africa on 250 for seven with 21 runs still required and three wickets in hand. 

Maharaj faced 21 deliveries for his seven runs and guided Ngidi (four off 14) and Shamsi (four off six) brilliantly before he smacked a Mohammad Nawaz drag-down behind square on the legside for four to complete the win. 

Despite South Africa seemingly trying their best to lose the match with the bat, it was crucial for the Proteas’ tournament ambitions to get over the line batting second, considering their poor record while chasing. 

Pakistan are now on a four-match losing streak in the tournament, having won only two matches in the tournament, and need a small miracle to make the semifinal stage. 

Aiden Markram was in good touch with the bat, but when he fell with the score on 250-7, it lead to a nervous finish. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia / Gallo Images)

Chasing for a change 

South Africa started well enough with the bat with regards to runs scored, reaching the end of the 10-over power play with 67 runs on the board. However, both openers Quinton de Kock (24 off 14) and Temba Bavuma (28 off 27) were back in the sheds despite the lively start. 

Rassie van der Dussen (21 off 39) looked in all sorts during his time at the crease before he was put out of his misery by a Usama Mir googly. 

It was only No. 4 Markram who struck the ball out of the middle of the bat consistently for South Africa. The elegant strokemaker knocked three sixes and seven fours in his terrific knock that took him to second leading run scorer in the tournament, only behind De Kock. 

Outside of Markram, none of the other South Africa’s batters was able to kick on from their starts with no one else passing 30. 

Heinrich Klaasen (12 off 10) bludgeoned a Mir full toss for a massive six but couldn’t offer Markram the support he needed, top edging a pull shot straight to third-man. 

The Proteas were in a precarious position at that stage at 136 for four, but David Miller (29 off 33) came together with Markram to put on a 70-run fifth wicket partnership. 

But Pakistan’s bowling star, Shaheen Shah Afridi, got rid of the big hitter with a snorter of a delivery which was caught behind by Mohammad Rizwan. 

Marco Jansen (20 off 14) didn’t last long before Markram played a loose stroke off Mir and edged the ball to Babar Azam at point. 

It was Maharaj who took the mantle from there to guide the team to an excellent victory.

Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi celebrate their one-wicket victory over Pakistan at MA Chidambaram Stadium on 27 October 2023 in Chennai, India. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia / Gallo Images)

Turning wicket 

South Africa did well to restrict Pakistan who threatened to tear away on several occasions. Skipper Azam (50 off 65), Saud Shakeel (52 off 52) and Shadab Khan (43 off 36) all looked set to play massive innings but couldn’t quite kick on on a flat wicket that gripped a little for the spinners. 

Shamsi, who returned to the side for Kagiso Rabada who was left out as a precautionary measure due to back spasms, made full use of the conditions on offer at the Chennai pitch. 

His googlies and conventional leg breaks bamboozled Iftikhar Ahmed, Azam, Shakeel and Afridi. 

Jansen also continued his brilliant tournament with the ball, picking up three scalps while conceding only 43 runs — finishing as the Proteas’ most economical bowler.

South Africa’s discipline was still wayward with the ball however, as both Shamsi and Jansen were guilty of bowling two no-balls each. Jansen also bowled six wides, as part of South Africa’s collective 10.

But the bowlers’ ability to constantly pick up wickets – Ngidi took one and Coetzee two – ensured Pakistan were bowled out with 3.2 overs left. That was salient in a match where every last run and ball mattered. DM

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