• Faf can’t hide relief

    Proteas captain Faf du Plessis said he feels ‘lighter’ now that his team finally have a victory in the Cricket World Cup after beating Afghanistan by 9 wickets in Cardiff, writes DANIEL GALLAN in London.

    After winning the toss and bowling first, du Plessis watched his bowlers put in a performance that befits their lofty pedigree, bundling Afghanistan out for just 125 inside 35 overs. Imran Tahir put in a player of the match performance with a return of 4/29 and Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo chipped in with 3/13 and 2/18 respectively.

    ‘I’m very relieved,’ du Plessis said after the game. ‘I think in all our cricket was much better today. We spoke a lot about our energy iin the field and I think you could see a difference in the field.’

    It has been well reported that the pre tournament plans relied heavily on a gun pace attack but injuries to important players killed that in idea in its infancy. This forced du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson two come up with another way of taking 10 wickets and today’s positive performances from Morris and Phehlukwayo will give the leadership group confidence.

    ‘Chris is hungry, he’s performing and he’s found consistency,’ Du Plessis said. ‘Andi has been really good with the ball. He’s picked up a yard of pace. He’s not floating the ball. It’s coming out with more intensity with him hitting the wicket. They are both moving in the right direction with their game.’

    At 40 years old, Imran Tahir continues to produce for this team, something that is not lost on his skipper.

    ‘He is special,’ du Plessis said of his leg spinner, who picked up two wickets in his first over. ‘On a wicket like today that was not suited for spinners, to get four wickets was an amazing bowling performance.’

    It wasn’t all perfect though. South Africa’s chase did not explode out the blocks the way some might have liked and the meagre target was only reached in 28.4 overs.

    Quinton de Kock hit 68 off 72 but Hashim Amla crawled to 41 not-out off 83 balls. However, du Plessis was unfazed. 

    ‘With [Amla] it’s a bigger picture. He’s an important player for us and time in the middle is gold.I see the value in it with the games that are coming up next.’

    – Gallan is a freelance sports writer based in London, follow him on Twitter: @danielgallan

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