Ahmedabad: South Africa survived a scare from Afghanistan in their final group match of the World Cup 2023, as they chased down 245 runs with five wickets and 15 balls to spare on Friday at Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad. This was their seventh win in nine matches, and they finished second in the points table behind India. They will now face Australia in the semi-final on 16 November at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
However, the victory was not as convincing as the margin suggests, as South Africa’s batsmen struggled against Afghanistan’s spinners, who kept them under pressure throughout the chase. Rassie van der Dussen was the star of the show, as he scored an unbeaten 76 off 95 balls, and shared a crucial 65-run stand with Andile Phehlukwayo for the sixth wicket. Van der Dussen was also named the player of the match for his match-winning knock.
South Africa had a good start in their chase, as captain Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock put on 64 runs for the first wicket in 10.4 overs. But then, they lost both the openers in the space of two runs, as off-spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi struck in quick succession. Bavuma was caught at midwicket for 23, while de Kock was trapped lbw for 41.
Aiden Markram and van der Dussen then steadied the innings with a 50-run partnership for the third wicket, but Markram fell for 25, caught at long-on off Rashid Khan. Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller also failed to convert their starts, as they were dismissed for 10 and 24 respectively. South Africa were reduced to 182 for 5 in the 38th over, and still needed 63 runs to win.
That’s when van der Dussen and Phehlukwayo joined forces and took the game away from Afghanistan. They played sensibly and attacked the loose balls, as they brought up their fifty partnership in 43 balls. Van der Dussen hit six fours and a six in his innings, while Phehlukwayo smashed one four and three sixes in his 37-ball 39. Phehlukwayo finished the game in style, as he hit Naveen-ul-Haq for a six, a four, and another six in the 48th over.
Earlier, Afghanistan was put into bat by Bavuma, and they posted a respectable total of 244, thanks to a brilliant unbeaten 97 by Azmatullah Omarzai. Omarzai was the lone warrior for Afghanistan, as he held the innings together after they lost wickets at regular intervals. He faced 107 balls and hit seven fours and three sixes, but missed out on his maiden ODI century by three runs.
Omarzai came to the crease at 66 for 4 in the 16th over and found some support from Ikram Alikhil, who made 12. They added 34 runs for the fifth wicket before Alikhil was bowled by Keshav Maharaj. Omarzai then shared a 40-run stand with Mohammad Nabi, who scored 2, and a 36-run partnership with Rashid Khan, who made 14. Noor Ahmad, who came at No. 9, also chipped in with 26 off 32 balls, as he and Omarzai added 54 runs for the eighth wicket.
The most successful bowler for South Africa was Gerald Coetzee, who took 4 for 44 in his 10 overs. He removed both the openers, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, in his first spell, and then came back to dismiss Rashid and Mujeeb in his second. Lungi Ngidi and Maharaj also bowled well, as they picked up two wickets each. Ngidi dismissed Hashmatullah Shahidi and Naveen-ul-Haq, while Maharaj got rid of Alikhil and Nabi.
This was Afghanistan’s last match of the tournament, and they finished sixth in the points table with four wins and five losses. They impressed everyone with their spirited performances, especially against India and New Zealand, whom they pushed to the brink. They also beat England, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka convincingly, and showed that they belong to the big stage.