By the time Afghanistan’s innings ended, its hopes of making it to the World Cup semifinals were already over. It needed to win by at least 438 runs against South Africa to stay in the hunt, but batting first, the Afghans could only amass 244 despite a remarkable innings by Azmatullah Omarzai (97, 107b, 7x4, 3x6).
The fifty-odd Afghan nationals present at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Friday, still hoped for a winning-end to the team’s campaign. Their cheers and chanting of slogans in Pashto, however, turned futile as South Africa pulled off a five-wicket win, riding on Rassie van der Dussen’s unbeaten 76 (95b, 6x4, 1x6).
Having already sealed a spot in the last-four stage, for South Africa, it was all about getting back its mojo after a humiliating defeat against India last week. In pursuit of 245, it started off cautiously, with captain Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock forging a 64-run stand. Bavuma, who suffered a hamstring injury, batted gingerly before holing out to deep square leg off Mujeeb ur Rahman.
A couple of overs later, Mohammed Nabi trapped de Kock leg before. After losing both openers in quick succession, van der Dussen and Aiden Markram stitched a 50-run partnership. However, Rashid Khan broke the stand and also cleaned up Heinrich Klaasen in the same spell.
Things could have gone awry had van der Dussen not held his nerves. He built two crucial partnerships - 43 runs with David Miller, followed by an unbeaten 65-run stand with Andile Phehlukwayo to guide the team home.
Sans Rashid, none of the spinners could dominate, and making the most of a reprieve, Phehlukwayo went on to hit two sixes and a four off Naveen-ul-Haq - playing his final ODI game - to wrap up the proceedings.
Earlier in the day, Afghanistan was reduced to 116 for six, before the 23-year-old Omarzai batted like a dream to take his team to a respectable total. Though he missed out on the coveted century narrowly, he registered the highest score by an Afghanistan No.5 batter.
Opening the innings, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran raced to 41 for 0 in eight overs and were unfazed by the initial new-ball spell. However, the introduction of spinner Keshav Maharaj turned things around for South Africa. He struck off his very first ball to dislodge Gurbaz, and in the space of 17 deliveries, Afghanistan lost three wickets with just four runs added to its tally. Wickets tumbled before Omarzai forged two key partnerships of 44-runs each - with Rashid and Noor Ahmed. But in the end, it wasn’t adequate.
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