South Africa defeat Afghanistan in rain-affected match


Imran Tahir kept South Africa’s World Cup hopes alive with a four-wicket haul as they thrashed outsiders Afghanistan by nine wickets in what became a 48-over match at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff.

The veteran leg-spinner, in his last major tournament before retiring from international cricket, opened with a beguiling spell with 3-3 in 14 balls to ensure a first win of the competition for the Proteas – so prolonging their interest at least until their meeting with New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday.

Andile Phehlukwayo proved the perfect foil, the pair producing a spell of 5-8 in 32 balls as their rivals crumbled from 69-2 to 77-7.

Some lusty blows from Rashid Khan lifted Afghanistan beyond the 100 mark and soon they surpassed the tally of 105 Pakistan made against West Indies in match 2; therefore, avoiding recording the lowest score of the tournament to date.

In truth, even before their mid-innings capitulation, this task always looked beyond Afghan skipper Gulbadin Naib and his men.

Both teams were winless coming into the clash and knew the loser on the banks of the River Taff would effectively be packing their bags for home even at the midway point of the group stages.

The pressure appeared to be on Faf du Plessis’ side, but in the event, it was Afghanistan who found the spectre of elimination the more debilitating.

Throughout the tournament so far, the post-match admission from Naib has been his team had played loose shots in committing the sin of failing to bat out their 50 overs.

In a bid to correct this trait they discarded leading scorer Najibullah Zadran in favour of former captain Asghar Afghan, a calmer presence perhaps more capable of the necessary longhand.

However, the rash shots which characterized defeats to Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, were replaced by fearful introspection which rendered them almost stroke-less.

Two breaks for rain did nothing to help their cause as they limped to 69-2 with73% of the deliveries faced resulting in dot balls – and it might have been worse.

Noor Ali Zadran would have been run out early on had it not been for Chris Morris’ wayward throw and the big paceman then dropped a skier to reprieve Hazratullah Zazai on 12 off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada, compounding the error by fumbling the ball into the fence for four.

But just as frustration threatened to set in Rabada made the breakthrough when Zazai sent a pull shot straight into the hands of Rassie van der Dussen at deep square.

And Morris atoned for his earlier errors when snaring Rahmat Shah LBW for 8. Even so, when rain drove the players from the pitch for the second time in mid-afternoon Afghanistan were 69-2.

Yet within 20 minutes of the restart, their World Cup race was as good as over.

Phehlukwayo began the carnage when Hashmatullah Shahidi edged one angled across him low to du Plessis at slip.

That was Tahir’s cue to take centre stage and he struck with his first ball; pitching a delivery that turned, beat the outside edge of Noor Ali Zadran’s bat and clipped the off stump.

Afghan’s return didn’t last long as the fifth ball of that same over saw him prod a leading edge back into the hands of the bowler, sending 40-year-old Tahir on his second victory run in as many minutes.

When Phehlukwayo bowled Mohammed Nabi off an inside edge four wickets had fallen for a single.

And a spell-binding few minutes were capped when Naib pulled a short ball to a diving Aiden Markram at mid-wicket, thus proving the old maxim world-class bowlers get wickets with bad balls too.

Rashid Khan led a brief counter-offensive to restore a little pride, but Tahir (4-29) had him caught on the fence before Morris (3-13) mopped up the tail.

South Africa’s quest for an adjusted score of 127 passed with hardly a murmur. Quinton de Kock led the chase with his second 50 of the tournament, reaching the landmark in 58 balls with six fours.

Perhaps more significantly, Hasim Amla, woefully out of touch to this point, finally spent time in the middle.

The pair shared the fourth-century stand of the tournament and before de Kock holed out for 68 from the bowling of Naib.

Hamla though remained 41 not out, as he and Phehlukwayo, who finished the match with its only six, romped home with 116 balls to spare.

For a dispirited looking Afghanistan, the task of building on their first World Cup win over Scotland four years ago doesn’t get any easier. It’s hosts England next for them at Old Trafford on Tuesday

As for South Africa, tougher quests such as New Zealand and Australia lie in wait for du Plessis’ men as they continue to play win or bust cricket in search of a semi-final berth.

That light remains at the end of a long tunnel, but this was a least a step out of the shadows.


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