T20 World Cup: When victory alone is not enough

Proteas get the better of previously-unbeaten England, but can’t prevent their own exit on net run rate.

About a year ago, when England toured South Africa, Jonny Bairstow played an important role to see off Tabraiz Shamsi in the middle overs. Things panned out differently in the England versus South Africa T20 World Cup game on Saturday.

Shamsi found the right length and speed at the outset. The left-arm chinaman bowler made one skid off the surface to trap Bairstow leg-before. The Proteas hoped. They had posted 189/2, riding on Rassie van der Dussen’s excellent 94 not out off 60 balls. But effectively, they were defending 131, the magic number to trump Australia’s net run rate and qualify for the semifinals.

Bairstow’s wicket came on the back of Jos Buttler’s dismissal, and with Jason Roy out after suffering a leg injury, England needed a resurrection job without lowering their tempo. A Kagiso Rabada hat-trick in the final over – Chris Woakes, Eoin Morgan and Chris Jordan – secured a 10-run bittersweet victory for South Africa. They ended England’s unbeaten run but bowed out of the tournament themselves. Temba Bavuma wasn’t smiling. Going out on net run rate after winning four of the five group matches was hurting the South Africa captain.

England fought till the end, expected from the world’s No.1 T20 side. Morgan showed his tactical nous by shuffling the batting order and sending Moeen Ali at No. 3 and pushing Dawid Malan to No. 5. The skipper himself came at No. 7.

Moeen’s 27-ball 37 triggered his team’s fightback. Still a lot had to be done. England were already through to the semifinals but it was about pride. After 15 overs, the asking rate jumped to 13 before Liam Livingstone dismantled Rabada with three consecutive sixes. Malan departed in the next over, but Morgan again took the attack to the opposition. Dwaine Pretorius dismissed Livingstone off the first ball of the 19th over and in arguably the best game of the T20 World Cup yet, the see-saw battle continued.

Under pressure, Pretorius bowled a no-ball and conceded a six to Woakes on the free hit, giving Rabada 14 runs to defend in the final over. The hat-trick was the perfect atonement for the fast bowler.

Honourable exit

South Africa will carry a lot of positives from this tournament. It’s been a tumultuous period in their cricket of late, through the radical overhaul in their cricket administration, the public falling out between some players and Cricket South Africa, controversy over team selection (read, Faf du Plessis’ omission) and finally the taking-the-knee episode during the tournament – Quinton de Kock initially refusing to follow CSA’s command before falling in line. Bavuma, the first black South African captain at a major tournament, had his task cut out. In the face of adversity, the team gelled.

Van der Dussen played a fantastic innings on Saturday, on par with Buttler’s century against Sri Lanka. A cricketer who runs a coffee shop at Centurion, who came to the rescue of one of his employees, Justin, after the latter was stabbed for a laptop in March this year – going by van der Dussen’s social media account – had big shoes to fill, when he made his international debut three years ago.

AB de Villiers had retired from international cricket but flirted with the idea to shun it for this World Cup. The plan didn’t materialise. Van der Dussen’s knock on Saturday would have made the great man proud.

For a change, Sharjah laid out a perfect T20 pitch and the batsman flourished through his excellent footwork – even against fast bowlers – and innovations. Woakes bowled outside the off-stump, van der Dussen shuffled and hit a six over cow-corner. Adil Rashid offered flight and was reverse-swept past short third man for a four.

Jordan was bowling well and thought he had van der Dussen out leg-before, only to be denied on umpire’s call. From cover, Bairstow walked up to the Saffer to drive home his point, ostensibly bearing the grudge of his LBW decision against Sri Lanka that was even more marginal.

Van der Dussen was unruffled and attacked Mark Wood, sending a 150kph delivery into the stands. Woakes was brought back into the attack and was taken to the cleaners again. Even Jordan in his final over suffered. South Africa had an imposing total on the board and their exit was respectable.

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