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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Reuters and Guardian sport

South Africa hold on to deny Pakistan fightback in Cricket World Cup thriller

Tabraiz Shamsi (left) and Keshav Maharaj celebrate after the latter’s boundary got South Africa to their target with a wicket to spare
Tabraiz Shamsi (left) and Keshav Maharaj celebrate after the latter’s boundary got South Africa to their target with a wicket to spare. Photograph: R Satish Babu/AFP/Getty Images

South Africa went top of the World Cup table and broke their 24-year tournament jinx against Pakistan – but the Proteas were pushed all the way by their opponents’ late fightback in a nervy one-wicket victory.

Chasing 271 to earn their fifth win from six games, South Africa began strongly. Quinton de Kock (24) and Temba Bavuma (28) landed early blows before Aiden Markram’s nerveless 91 and 70-run partnership with David Miller put them in apparent control at 206 for four.

Usama Mir (two for 45) came on as a concussion substitute for Shadab Khan and proved a game-changer, getting rid of Rassie van der Dussen (21), and took a catch to dismiss Heinrich Klaasen (12). Shaheen Afridi (three for 45) stepped in to dislodge Miller and turned up the pressure by removing Gerald Coetzee to leave South Africa on 250 for eight.

Haris Rauf produced a dramatic diving catch off his own delivery to dismiss Lungi Ngidi and Pakistan were suddenly one wicket from victory. Rauf thought he had it when trapping Tabraiz Shamsi lbw, but his appeals were ignored – and DRS ruled umpire’s call, much to the bowler’s dismay and disbelief.

In the end, Keshav Maharaj and Shamsi clung on to settle a tight, tense contest in Chennai, with Maharaj hitting the four runs needed for victory with 16 balls to go. It means South Africa are all but guaranteed a semi-final spot, while Pakistan’s hopes are fading after a fourth defeat in six matches.

“It’s a bit of chaos [in the dressing room] at the moment, the guys are enjoying the moment, guys picking up Shamsi,” said Bavuma. “Nail-biting finish … there’s obviously been pressure with us chasing. We haven’t done well to rectify that. We’ll have conversations. It’ll be easier to have those conversations now with the win.”

Haris Rauf celebrates his acrobatic catch to dismiss Lungi Ngidi off his own bowling.
Haris Rauf celebrates his acrobatic catch to dismiss Lungi Ngidi off his own bowling. Photograph: Samuel Rajkumar/Reuters

Earlier, Pakistan’s batters were in trouble at 141 for five but Saud Shakeel (52) and Shadab (43) stitched together an 84-run stand with some powerful strokeplay to reach 270 all out in 46.4 overs. Shamsi (four for 60) and Coetzee (two for 42) impressed with the ball as Pakistan ultimately fell short of an imposing total.

Babar Azam won the toss and opted to bat and Mohammad Rizwan (31) steadied their innings after Marco Jansen had dismissed Abdullah Shafique (9) and Imam-ul-Haq (12). Shamsi then got rid of the aggressive Iftikhar Ahmed (21) when he looked to raise the tempo during the middle overs as South Africa kept their opponents in check.

Babar brought up his third half-century of the tournament but fell without another run, gloving Shamsi’s delivery back to wicketkeeper De Kock. Mohammad Nawaz (24) threw his wicket away to leave Pakistan facing a rescue mission that they so nearly achieved.

The Pakistan director of cricket, Mickey Arthur, blamed a lack of batting form for his team’s struggles in the tournament. “We haven’t put together the perfect game yet,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve batted well enough yet as a unit. I think that pitch, certainly par on that pitch is 300 at least. We haven’t put together enough runs.

“Tonight I thought was our best bowling performance of the competition,” he added. “We bowled really well, but I still thought we were under par in terms of the runs that we [allowed]. It hasn’t been for lack of effort, we haven’t got enough players in form at the minute, particularly with the bat.”

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