South Africa catch their way to close win | Crickit
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South Africa catch their way to close win

Jun 22, 2024 12:04 AM IST

In another close game, the Proteas, backed by their brilliant fielding, came out on top against England.

Kagiso Rabada normally keeps his emotions in check. Not this time though. Plucking the ball out of thin air sounds dramatic, but watching it live can take your breath away.

South Africa beat England by 7 runs.(AP)
South Africa beat England by 7 runs.(AP)

Reeza Hendricks had that effect on Rabada—throwing himself full length at cover, both feet in the air and stretching every sinew in his left arm to spectacularly hold on to the catch of Phil Salt in the second over. So quickly it happened that even the replays looked real-time.

Fast forward to the first ball of the 20th over and the story repeated itself. Needing 14 from six, Harry Brook didn’t get his hoick off Anrich Nortje right, spearing the ball straight into the air to send Aidan Markram haring from mid-on to complete a sensational catch over his shoulder.

South Africa shouldn’t have been in that position had it not been for Brook and Liam Livingstone adding 78 in 42 balls after Phil Salt, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow were gone inside nine overs.

But the bowling had gone completely haywire towards the end. Rabada conceded 18 runs in the 15th over. Nortje was hit for consecutive boundaries before he bounced back with four singles but Ottneil Baartman really let it slip in the 17th over when he kept bowling full tosses trying to find the yorker and conceded 21. What didn’t slip though were South Africa’s fielding standards.

South Africa vs England Highlights T20 World Cup

De Kock was the initial architect of this seven-run win though, scoring 65 off 38 balls. The main onslaught came in the fourth over, when he first used Jofra Archer’s pace to whip him over fine-leg for a six.

Next ball was again full, and this time de Kock clobbered Archer over midwicket for a massive over-boundary. It prompted a length ball, almost devoid of pace, but de Kock didn’t have any problem picking that and ramping it over short third man for a four. Once Reeza Hendricks swung wildly through midwicket for a four to rub salt into Archer’s wounds with a 21-run over, South Africa looked well and truly away on a great start.

South Africa flattered to deceive though. From the seventh to the 15th over, South Africa could muster only four boundaries, largely because England took pace off the ball by introducing Adil Rashid who ended with an economy of five and a classical dismissal of Aiden Markram but also because of some scintillating bit of keeping from Jos Buttler.

As if a one-handed catch of de Kock almost at first slip wasn’t sizzling enough, Buttler followed that up with a one-handed pick-up-and-throw to take out the stumps at the non-striker’s end after Heinrich Klaasen was a tad late to react to David Miller’s call for a single.

Apart from that dismissal putting the brakes on South Africa’s scoring, England also probably had a point to prove in the aftermath of de Kock getting a life void earlier in the innings after the fourth umpire felt Mark Wood’s fingers weren’t under the ball when he lunged forward to catch him at deep backward square-leg.

Post that reprieve, de Kock just couldn’t reproduce the touch that saw him racing to 58 from 29 balls. South Africa’s curve nosedived as a result, till a flurry of boundaries from Miller salvaged the innings to a great degree.

It still wasn’t a winning score, partly because England back themselves to chase any target and partly because the St Lucia pitch appeared to become flatter. This is where South Africa’s fielding came into its own, nearly derailing England’s chase.

Salt the first to go. Jonny Bairstow meant well but his attempted cut off a slower ball from Keshav Maharaj prompted Nortje to his right at backward point to complete the catch. A break-point seemed to elude South Africa when Klaasen had dropped Bairstow at deep backward point but the next time the ball flew towards him, he made no mistake in catching Jos Buttler. From there to Markram catching Brook was a bumpy ride though.

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