The Proteas kept their small World Cup playoff flame burning after they recorded their first win of the 2019 World Cup with a nine-wicket, Duckworth-Lewis, thrashing of Afghanistan in Cardiff, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The Proteas more than doubled their log points in their fifth match of the tournament, following three successive defeats to England, Bangladesh and India and the rained out encounter against the West Indies.
The South Africans made light work of Afghanistan’s first innings effort of 125, which was adjusted after the match was reduced to an 48-over affair.
Quinton de Kock hit eight boundaries en route to a 68. His opening partner Hashim Amla (41 not out) wasn’t quite as fluent – to be kind. The great man used 83 balls to get to his total. T
he Proteas would have probably wanted to reach the target a lot earlier than the 29th over to try and boost their net run-rate, which has been left battered after four matches. They sent in Andile Phehlukwayo at No 3 (17 off 17 balls) to try and up the ante when De Kock lost his wicket to Gulbadin Naib, but even his effort wasn’t great either.
The Proteas basically need to win all their matches to qualify for the semi-finals. They have struggled in all departments at this tournament before this game, but managed to convincingly put the Afghans away.
Striking up front remains a bit of concern, though, especially with bigger challenges ahead over the next two weeks. The fitness of Lungi Ngidi is a worry after he also missed this match after picking up a hamstring injury against Bangladesh.
The Proteas face New Zealand on Wednesday, before taking on Pakistan on Sunday.
But hopefully they gained some confidence. It was ‘only’ Afghanistan, but the opposition still had to be put away. And that’s exactly what they did, first with the ball and then with the bat, albeit a bit slow.
Imran Tahir was South Africa’s star with the ball, as he tormented the Afghan batsman with the ball following two rain delays.
Afghanistan lost four wickets for one run in 13 balls after the players returned to the field following a second brief shower at the venue. Before that, Afghanistan had largely frustrated the South African bowlers after Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis and won the toss and decided to bowl on a green pitch under cloudy skies.
Afghanistan went from 69/2 after 20 overs to 78/7 at the end of the 26th over, with Phehlukwayo (2/18) and Tahir (4/29) bowled sharing the five wickets between them.
Before that, Afghanistan abandoned their aggressive, sometimes gung-ho, approach for a measured one at the start of their innings to try and nullify South Africa’s opening bowlers.
They managed to frustrate the Kagiso Rabada (1/36) and Beuran Hendricks (0/25) for eight overs, before Radaba bagged hard-hitting Afghan opener Hazratullah Zazai (22) with a short ball.
The Proteas’ change bowlers Phehlukwayo and Chris Morris (3/13) bowled really well after the powerplay, but they were also frustrated by Afghan batsmen, who also enjoyed a bit of luck, either side of the first break.
Morris eventually picked up the wicket of Rahmat Shah (6) LBW, but five overs later the players left the field after another shower hit the ground.
Phehlukwayo then struck with the fourth ball after the second weather interruption when he had Hashmatullah Shahidi (8), before Tahir struck twice in his very first over by bowling Noor Ali Zadran (32) through the gate, while Asghar Afghan (0) popped the ball straight back to the veteran leg-spinner.
Phehlukwayo picked up the wicket of the dangerous Mohammad Nabi (1) in the next over, before Tahir struck again in the 25th over when Gulbadin Naib hit a long-hop straight to Aiden Markram.
Morris returned to the attack to pick up Ikram Alikhil (9), who shared a crucial 34-runpartnership with Rashid Khan (35). Khan had a bit of a go at Tahir and hit the spinner for a few boundaries. However, the Proteas leg-spinner had the final say when he had his counterpart caught on the boundary.
Morris then wrapped up the innings when Hamid Hassan hit one straight up in the air.