Proteas tick off chasing box against Afghanistan in final match before Cricket World Cup semifinal
A determined South Africa edged home to a tight five-wicket win over Afghanistan to take momentum into their semifinal meeting with Australia. South Africa won by five wickets (15 balls left).
South Africa scraped home to a tight-fought five-wicket Cricket World Cup win over Afghanistan, in their final round-robin match, on Friday at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Afghanistan were bowled out for a respectable 244, set-up by an exquisite unbeaten 97 off 107 deliveries by all-rounder Azmatullah Omarzai.
Gerald Coetzee nabbed career best figures of four for 44 before player-of-the-match Rassie van der Dussen struck an unbeaten 76 off 95 balls to guide South Africa to the victory with 15 balls to spare.
Despite being a dead rubber for the Proteas, having already secured a semifinal spot prior to the match, it was a salient victory for the side who has struggled to chase targets in the World Cup thus far.
There were contributions throughout the batting order with every batter reaching double figures while the reliable Van der Dussen was the glue that held the innings together.
The match was not without its fitness hiccups for the side with opening bowler Lungi Ngidi and captain Temba Bavuma both suffering injuries in the field.
Ngidi went down halfway through his third over and went off the field but eventually came back, although gingerly, and completed eight and a half overs.
Bavuma struggled to run in the field and chased after balls with a limp but stayed on the field for 50-overs. Surprisingly, the captain still went out to open the batting and despite hopping along
“My leg is sore. I don’t know to what extent but it’s going to have to be fine,” the captain said after the match.
“I had the option of coming off but as much as it was our last group stage game, [the result] probably didn’t have a big bearing in terms of the playoffs but I still wanted to be out there with the guys.
“It was an opportunity for me to get time in the middle and I didn’t want to let that go … I know it was a bit risky but it was what I felt was right at the time.”
Van der Dussen glue
South Africa was in a spot of bother on 139 for four in the 28th over and then again at 182 for five ten overs later. But Van der Dussen and Andile Phehlukwayo – playing in his first match of the tournament – came together for a team high 65-run, 62-ball partnership.
Phehlukwayo finished unbeaten on 39 off 37 deliveries and finished the match with three lusty blows — two sixes and one four off Naveen-ul-Haq.
Before that tournament leading run-scorer Quinton de Kock (41 off 47) and Bavuma (23 off 28) saw out the powerplay and put together a solid 64 run partnership. But the openers fell within two runs between each other.
Van der Dussen, who struck four sixes and one six, rebuilt steadily with Aiden Markram (25 off 32) before the latter was bamboozled by Rashid Khan.
All five of South Africa’s wickets that fell were off spinners with Khan and Mohammad Nabi grabbing two each and Mujeeb Ur Rahman getting the other.
Rashid clean bowled Heinrich Klaasen (10 off 13) in the same spell to keep Afghanistan in the hunt. David Miller (24 off 33) struck a massive six and one four before he was caught and bowled by Nabi.
Marco Jansen was rested for the clash so Proteas spearhead Kagiso Rabada took the new ball for the first time in this Cricket World Cup. However, neither he nor new ball partner Ngidi were able to get an early breakthrough.
Instead, it was left-arm tweaker Keshav Maharaj who grabbed Rahmanullah Gurbaz, caught at slip by Klaasen off his first delivery of the day. Mahraj also picked up Aghani skipper Hashmatulla Shahidi, caught behind by De Kock — who took a total six catches in the match.
The spinner finished with splendid figures of two wickets in 10 overs, conceding only 25 runs.
All the while Coetzee ripped through Afghanistan’s core, grabbing opener Ibrahim Zadran and Ikram Alikhil before scaring the tail with his ferocious pace and knocking over Noor Ahmad and Ur Rahman.
Coetzee’s four scalps took him to 18 in the tournament, third overall and the most ever by a South African in a Cricket World Cup — despite playing only seven matches.
Next up for South Africa is a date with destiny against archrivals Australia in the World Cup semifinal on Thursday, 16 November, at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. DM