Successful chase gives us confidence going into semis: Bavuma
South Africa will now head to Kolkata for the semi-final against Australia in a repeat of the classic 1999 World Cup clash
South Africa's 2023 World Cup record this year reads seven wins and two losses. Before their Friday night win over Afghanistan in what was the last league fixture for both teams, South Africa had failed to chase 245 against Netherlands, managed a one-wicket win over Pakistan in pursuit of 271, and were bundled out for 83 by India chasing 326.
While an all-win run batting first spoke about their batting firepower, the iffy record in chases pointed towards a familiar tendency to crumble under pressure. In that respect, Temba Bavuma's men will look at their five-wicket win over an enterprising Afghanistan in Ahmedabad's Narendra Modi Stadium with pride, especially as it comes just ahead of their semi-final against Australia in Kolkata next week.
"Today we did a few things different. We batted second today. To get over the line in that manner, that is going to give us a lot of confidence," said Bavuma after the win.
Afghanistan won the toss and skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi elected to bat. South Africa, Player of the Match Rassie van der Dussen later said, would have chosen the same.
"We were happy with bowling first, we would have chased anyway. They have a quality bowling attack and we wanted to put ourselves in a tough situation. Maybe one or two things we can tweak, but happy with how the run-chase went. In any chase, there has to be someone who plays an anchor role. The openers set things up nicely. We know what our batting line-up can do. Had some good partnerships in the middle and happy to get across the finish line," van der Dussen, who scored an unbeaten 76 (95 balls, 4x6, 6x1), said.
"Sometimes, when you do one thing so well, and the other part is not so good, people say you are doing it badly. We are probably 50-50 when chasing and we would like to improve that, of course. Going into the semi-final, this is what we wanted to do and it worked out well," he added.
The Afghans rode on a fine unbeaten 97 from Azmatullah Omarzai to score 244, an under-par total against a strong South Africa line-up. Still, from being 116/6 in the 28th over to adding 128 runs for the last four wickets underlined the maturity that has headlined Afghanistan's memorable campaign. Omarzai found support from Rashid Khan (14) and Noor Ahmad (26) and ensured the Afghanistan innings lasted their full quota of 50 overs.
Bavuma played down his side's inability to pack off the tail. "It is not really a concern. The wicket got better," he reasoned. "When Keshav came back for his second spell, it was not gripping and spinning as much. Gerald also came in and took wickets, always a huge plus. We can always pick on the different phases and we can think of things to improve, but we will take the win."
The target, though not insurmountable, still gave Afghanistan a fighting chance but the opening stand of 64 runs between Bavuma and Quinton de Kock put paid any chances of a shock result. South Africa lost their middle-order trio of Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, and David Miller despite each of them getting starts, but Van der Dussen put up an unbeaten 65-run stand with Andile Phehlukwayo (39) and took South Africa home with 15 balls and five wickets to spare.
South Africa will now head to Kolkata for the semi-final against Australia in a repeat of the classic 1999 World Cup clash. Bavuma is confident of returning to Ahmedabad to play what will be South Africa's maiden final in nine World Cup appearances. "We would want to play here (in Ahmedabad) again, in front of a full capacity crowd, and it will be a different experience playing in front of a hundred thousand fans. Before that, we have Australia. We will enjoy today, and from tomorrow, we will start training our minds for that clash," Bavuma said.
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