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In spite of being grouped with India and South Africa they fought gallantly from first ball to 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â Afghanistan were dismissed for 80 with exactly four overs to spare, giving the Proteas victory by 59 runs.
Earlier in the day Afghanistan caused a few flutters in the Proteas camp as a good spell from Hamid Hasasan saw the African giants in a spot of bother at 90/5 in the 15th over. With the exception of Bosman (run out for naught) and Boucher (leg before for 4) the entire top order got starts but failed to go on to make a decent contribution. Skipper Graeme Smith looked to be on a rampage as he hammered 27 from just 14 balls including 4 fours and a six before finding the fielder at long-off off Mohammad Nabi.
Jacques Kallis top scored with 34 while AB de Villiers and JP Duminy contributed 17 and 25 respectively. An excellent spell of no wicket for 14 runs from 22-year old leg spinner Samiullah Shenwari put the breaks on the scoring, while Hamid Hassan chipped in with 3 wickets from the other end. A late burst from Albie Morkel (21 from 17b) gave the South African score some semblance of respectability before their fast bowlers came back to do massive damage with the ball.
South Africa now go into Group E of the Super 8 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 semi-finals on Thursday and Friday of next week.Â The Proteas play their three Super Eight matches in the space of five days and for the first time ever 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 (SA time).
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."
South Africa 139/7 (20 overs, 6.95rpo)
Kallis 34 (33) Â Â Â Â Hassan 3-21
Smith 27 (17) Â Â Â Mangal 1-20
Afghanistan 80 all out (20 overs, 4.00rpo)
Ashraf 23 (25) Â Â M Morkel 4-20
Hassan 22 (21) Â Â Langeveldt 3-12
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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