De Villiers, Morris star as SA beats Afghanistan

The pièce de résistance was Ab de Villiers’s rollicking 29-ball 64.

Chris Morris was awarded the player of the match award.   -  Getty Images

Numbers can be cruel sometimes. For, every now and then, they hide more than they reveal. The scorecard will tell you that a power-packed South Africa defeated Afghanistan by 37 runs here on Sunday to put its World T20 campaign back on track. It will also let you know that the pitch at the Wankhede is tailor-made for ‘cricketainment’. What it won’t, however, convey is the thoroughly uplifting nature of cricket played by a lion-hearted bunch hailing from this war-ravished nation neighbouring ours. > Read: Would've loved to play Steyn - Shahzad

Watch the >highlights

> Full scorecard and ball-by-ball details

When South Africa piled up 209 for five after >Faf du Plessis called it right at the toss, it was, perhaps, sure of registering a straightforward victory without breaking much sweat. Buoyed by a sizeable number of their countrymen, most of them packed into the roofless Sunil Gavaskar Pavilion replete with a giant Indo-Afghan ‘combo’ flag, >Asghar Stanikzai’s men, however, gave the Proteas an irksome scare. And, had South Africa not pressed the brake pedal at the right time, it could well have suffered the ignominy of becoming the first side to lose back-to-back contests after putting up more than 200 on the board.

It was >Mohammad Shahzad — the rotund wicketkeeper-batsman — who allowed Afghanistan, and the generous Sunday crowd, to believe that miracles happen on a cricket field. The manner in which he inadvertently sliced Kagiso Rabada’s second delivery for six over third man spoke volumes of his mindset. The next ball, a short and wide offering, was duly dispatched over backward point for four.

By now, Shahzad, fondly known as ‘MS’, had quietly slipped into a cloak of adventure. In the next over, bowled by Kyle Abbott, he smashed 22 runs — inclusive of three wowing sixes — to make it a ‘paisa vasool’ afternoon for one and all.

Rabada would suffer another round of spanking — a four, followed by a six over fine-leg — before Shahzad would run a couple for his first boundary-less runs of the day. With the scoreboard reading 47 for none after three overs, the chase was well and truly on. Shahzad’s contribution to that was whopping 44 off 17!

Shahzad would for the addition of just three runs, courtesy an angled delivery crashing into the stumps. The send-off he received from >Chris Morris (4-0-27-4), South Africa’s best bowler on the day, would be symptomatic of the opposition’s collective ‘frustration quotient’. Quite a few others tried their heart out to achieve what Shahzad had set out to — Noor Ali Zadran made 25 off 24, Gulbadin Naib contributed 16 off 18 and Samiullah Shenwari scored 15 off just 14 — but a Dale Steyn-less South Africa’s all-round strength prevailed.

That Afghanistan rattled off 64 during Powerplay, only two fewer than the Proteas, says a lot. Its tally after, at the halfway stage, was 103 for two, 11 more than its opponent.

Earlier, >Quinton de Kock (45 off 31) and Faf du Plessis (41 off 27) blazed away after Hashim Amla fell with only five to his name. The pièce de résistance was Ab de Villiers’s rollicking 29-ball 64. Responding to chants of “ABD…ABD” in right earnest, he took leggie Rashid Khan, one of four spinners employed by the Afghans, to the cleaners in the 17th over. Those 29 runs, which came in the form of >6-4-6-6-6-1, cost them dear. That leg-spinner Shenwari made a mess of a caught-and-bowled chance when the batsman was on 26 hurt the Afghans even more.

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