South Africa finally registered their first win in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 by defeating Afghanistan by nine wickets in Cardiff on Saturday.
It was not the most convincing display from the Proteas but in the end a good bowling performance led by Imran Tahir meant that victory was a forgone conclusion. The leg-spinner was man-of-the-match for his 4/29 off seven overs.
After winning the toss the Proteas decided to field first but the Afghans came out all guns blazing as they negotiated the fast bowling of Kagiso Rabada and Beuron Hendricks as Hazratullah Zazai and Noor Ali Zadran putting on 39 for the first wicket.
Rain then came but after it went and play resuemed, Rabada dismissed Zazai. But then Zadran and Rahmat Shah kept things steady as rain came on for a longer time during their partnership to curtail the match to 48 over-a-side. After the rain break, Chris Morris took the wicket of Rahmat Shah and that sparked a big collapse.
Captain Faf du Plessis rung in the changes to bring in Andile Phehlukwayo and he then took the wicket of Hashmatullah Shahidi who scored eight. Enter Imran Tahir in the 21st over and he immediately took the wicket for Zadran, who was cleaned up by a picture-perfect googly after scoring 32.
There was some late fireworks from Rashid Khan, who top-scored with 35 and helped the Afghans cross the 100-run barrier, but after taking the attack to Tahir, he was caught at deep-midwicket by Rassie van der Dussen. Their innings ended at 125 all-out in just 34.1 overs.
In reply, openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock started circumspect and scored just 35 runs in the first 10 overs. De Kock started to up the ante as South Africa reached the team 50 after 13 overs.
The left-handed opener reached his half century a while later, off 58 balls. Amla was still plodding along, and visibly struggling to find his timing. South Africa were 91 for no loss after the first 20 overs, going slower than expected whereas one would have thought they’d want to bat faster and improve their net run rate.
De Kock and Amla eventually brought up their 100-run opening partnership in 22.3 overs with Amla scoring just 34 and de Kock scoring almost his double at 64. The wicketkeeper-batsman was eventually dismissed for 68 as he was trying to up the ante and became Afghan captain Gulbadin Naib’s first and only wicket.
Phehlukwayo was promoted up the order to finish things quickly and he did so by hitting the winning runs as he smashed a six in the fourth ball of the 29th over off the bowling of Mohammad Nabi.
He scored 17 off as many balls while Amla, who still looked to be struggling for form remained not out on 41 from 83 balls.
The win will come as a big relief for South Africa, even though they could have won with a better net run rate by batting faster. But their World Cup campaign remains alive by the thinnest of threads as they climb up to 7th place with three points from five games.
They have to win all of their remaining games against New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia and have a good net run rate to make the semis.
Unfortunately for the Afghans, this defeats ends any chance they would have had of making the semis and they are the first team eliminated with no points from four games.