South Africa edge West Indies in Super 8 thriller to reach T20 World Cup semis | Crickit
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South Africa edge West Indies in Super 8 thriller to reach T20 World Cup semis

By, New Delhi
Jun 24, 2024 12:21 PM IST

Knock West Indies out of T20 World Cup in rain-reduced chase

Taking South Africa’s tumultuous and tragic past in World Cups into account, rain in a run chase with a semi-final berth on the line was bound to evoke grave anxiety. That dreaded C-word almost haunted the Proteas yet again, but Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada kept their cool in the end at North Sound in Antigua to take South Africa over the line against co-hosts West Indies with three wickets in hand and book a last-four spot in the T20 World Cup. The men from the Caribbean have been knocked out.

South Africa's Tabraiz Shamsi celebrates with teammate Aiden Markram after taking the wicket West Indies' Sherfane Rutherford during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between the West Indies and South Africa at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua and Barbuda, Sunday, June 23, 2024. AP/PTI(AP06_24_2024_000010A)(AP)
South Africa's Tabraiz Shamsi celebrates with teammate Aiden Markram after taking the wicket West Indies' Sherfane Rutherford during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between the West Indies and South Africa at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua and Barbuda, Sunday, June 23, 2024. AP/PTI(AP06_24_2024_000010A)(AP)

If South Africa’s batters are honest with themselves, it should have never come down to Jansen and Rabada having to finish the chase. In pursuit of 136 for victory in this virtual quarter-final, South Africa were jolted early with the wickets of Reeza Hendricks and Quinton de Kock in the second over of the innings. To complicate matters further, rain halted play for 75 minutes and revised the target to 123 in a match now reduced to 17 overs.

But South Africa seemed to respond well to the change in the equation on resumption of play. In the fourth over, skipper Aiden Markram stood tall and carved a back-of-a-length ball from Andre Russell through cover point for four. In the next over, twice in two balls, Tristan Stubbs punished short deliveries from left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein through point for fours.

Even though Alzarri Joseph struck off the second ball of his spell to dislodge Markram, Heinrich Klaasen seemed to ease the nerves in the South African dugout by immediately getting into his groove. In the seventh over, bowled by left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie, Klaasen began with a six down the ground and ended with three consecutive fours, taking South Africa to 70/3 in seven overs with 53 more to get in 60 balls.

From that strong position, South Africa contrived to nearly botch up the chase, losing four wickets for 33 runs to be reduced to 110/7 with 13 runs required off 10 balls. Two singles and two byes off the next three deliveries meant nine were needed off seven balls. That is when Rabada found a precious boundary off Roston Chase, who had picked three wickets already, to the right of long-off. Off the first ball of the final over, Jansen smashed Obed McCoy towards long-on to finish it with a six.

The groundwork for South Africa’s win was laid by the bowlers putting in a collective effort, restricting West Indies to 135/8 on a track where batting wasn’t quite straightforward. While all the South African bowlers barring Anrich Nortje took a wicket, left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was particularly instrumental with figures of 4-0-27-3.

West Indies had recovered nicely from 5/2 thanks to an 81-run stand between Kyle Mayers and Chase for the third wicket. They weren’t brisk with their scoring, but it seemed like they were setting the stage for Rovman Powell, Sherfane Rutherford and Russell to show their big-hitting pyrotechnics at the back end. Shamsi threw a spanner in the works by dismissing Mayers, Powell and Rutherford in a game-defining spell that earned him the player-of-the-match award.

If South Africa hadn’t sneaked to victory, familiar criticism about the players squandering a winning position would have resurfaced. But since they are through to the knockouts, the upside from their unbeaten streak in this tournament is that they are prevailing in nail-biting finishes.

“Quite nervy out there but that has been the theme this World Cup. We have been finding ways to win and tonight was another one of those,” Shamsi reflected at the post-match presentation. “We have been able to overcome such (pressure) moments and that keeps us in good stead.”

The semi-final stage is another hurdle that South Africa don’t tend to cross at these big events. But if a team that hasn’t yet been defeated is to fire a warning to their opponents, how about this from Markram? “We have not played our best game of cricket yet, so we will try to put it together for the semi-final.”

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