Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel subjected Afghanistan to a short-pitched mugging to give the Proteas a comfortable passage from Group C into the Super Eight phase of the ICC World Twenty20 at the Kensington Oval on Wednesday.
It was the end of a romantic dream for the Asian side who have surprised friend and foe with their development that has seen rise from the ranks of cricket’s minnows to rub shoulders with the game’s best players.
In spite of being grouped with India and South Africa they fought gallantly from the first ball to the last and have written the first chapter of what could become a distinguished history.
Having won the toss, Afghanistan did well to limit the Proteas to 139/7 in their 20 overs.
But even at that stage it was evident that they were going to find a bouncy pitch tough to handle against some of the finest fast bowlers in modern international cricket.
That proved to be the case. Steyn and Morkel ripped into their opponents who have had little experience of playing against bowling of this pace, bounce and general class with good support from Charl Langeveldt.
Man-of-the-match Morkel was at one stage on a hat trick as Afghanistan collapsed to 14/6 in 5.1 overs and later to 25/7.
It was only the decision of Graeme Smith to give some of his other bowlers some exercise that prevented the game from coming to a sudden and early end.
Steyn took 2/6 and Morkel 4/20 in three overs apiece while Langeveldt contributed 3/12 from his full allocation of four overs.
Seven of the 10 wickets fell to catches behind the wicket which said all that was necessary about the way the South African bowlers carried out their game plan.
Afghanistan were dismissed for 80 with exactly four overs to spare, giving the Proteas victory by 59 runs.
South Africa now go into Group E of the Super Eight phase alongside New Zealand, England and Pakistan while Group F consists of Australia, India, Sri Lanka and hosts West Indies. The top two from
each group progress to the semifinals on Thursday and Friday of next week.
The Proteas play their three Super Eight matches in the space of five days and for the first time they will play two international matches in the space of 24 hours as they play an afternoon match against New Zealand on Thursday.
The matches against New Zealand on Thursday and England on Saturday both start at 7.30pm SA time while Monday’s match against Pakistan starts at 3.30pm.
Coach Corrie van Zyl expressed himself happy with the clinical nature of the Afghanistan victory. “We did not have the chance to do any death bowling in this match which was an area that needed improvement after the India game,” he commented.
“We also haven’t got our batting into top gear yet,” he added.
“But there are always areas to be worked on.” – Sapa