World T20 Results: South Africa Flirt with Disaster, But Escape with Narrow Win over Plucky Netherlands
By Deepak Vikraman | March 27, 2014 11:53 PM EST
The chokers tag does not sit well with a team like South Africa, the top Test team in the world over the past couple of years, and littered with world beaters, none more so than that great man Dale Steyn.
But somehow, no matter what generation, when it comes to ICC tournaments, South Africa seem to struggle. On Thursday, in Chittagong, South Africa flirted with disaster, took it out for a date, got into a relationship with it, and even thought about proposing marriage, before pulling out in the final moment to escape by the skin of their teeth.
Seen as an ideal opportunity to bulge that net run rate, and pick up a comprehensive win over the Netherlands, who would have come into the game with some trepidation after that record-breaking loss to Sri Lanka, in their Group 1 match of the World T20, South Africa stumbled, fumbled, almost crumbled, but just about got over the line to pull off a thrilling six-run win.
The Associate side, courtesy a blinder from Stephan Myburg (51), were in prime control to pull off a stunning upset, at 80 for one in the eighth over, chasing a mere 146, after South Africa could only manage 145 for nine -- thanks to a five-for from Ahsan Malik -- before failing to hold their nerve under some intense pressure, with Imran Tahir (four for 21) and Steyn (two for 19) yet again coming to the fore with the ball. Netherlands eventually fell agonisingly short, finishing on an oh-if-only-we-could-have-hit-one-more-six 139 all out in 18.4 overs.
Netherlands could not afford another blink-and-you-lose-a-wicket innings, and they did not produce one as Myburg, from Pretoria, played a little gem of an innings to bring those sweat glands of South Africa working into overdrive, and not just because of the heat in Bangladesh.
Myburg was particularly severe on anything outside off stump, with Lonwabo Tsotsobe (3-0-41-0) insistent on bowling exactly there time and again only to see that white ball race to the boundary line pretty much every single time.
The Netherlands, needing only a little over seven runs an over to begin with, romped to 51 for no loss in the first five overs, with Michael Swart at the other end happy to sit back and enjoy Myburg's pyrotechnics.
Swart (8 in 12) would fall in the fifth ball of the final Powerplay over, with Dale Steyn predictably making the breakthrough, as the opener failed to clear Faf Du Plessis at mid-off, with the SA skipper taking a smart catch.
South Africa sensed a way back into the game a couple of overs later, when Myburgh (51, 28b, 8x4, 2x6) was castled by JP Duminy, leaving the Netherlands on 80 for two, needing another 66 runs from 12 overs for a now-we-will-never-forget-that victory.
The pressure increased that little bit more an over later with Tahir trapping Wesley Barresi right in front of the wicket. Netherlands captain Peter Borren hit a four and a six before walking back to the pavilion -- Tahir coming up trumps again with another plumb-as-you-get lbw.
The two Coopers - Tom and Ben came into the crease with Holland still favourites, albeit a lot dicier, to pull off an incredible win. Tom Cooper, Netherlands' best batsman in this tournament, smashed a couple of boundaries to take the equation to a we-are-nearly-there 32 from the final eight overs.
But all it takes is a wicket here and another there to ramp up the pressure, and South Africa would be right back in it. Enter Steyn, the fast bowling behemoth, and Tahir, the leg-spinning wizard, to turn the game on its head yet again, just like they did in their last game against New Zealand.
Steyn, off a cracker of a short delivery, sent Ben Cooper packing, before Tahir picked up the prized wicket of Tom Cooper (16, 13b, 2x4), while also sending back Pieter Seelar to put the Netherlands on 118 for seven, needing another 28 runs from the final six overs.
Logan Van Beek and Mudassar Bukhari put on seven runs together, before the pressure got to them and the former was run out, as South Africa closed in and pulled off the great escape.
Earlier, the onus was on South Africa to take the smash-bang T20 format into their arms and give it a good old wallop every few deliveries to increase that much-needed net run rate of theirs.
However, what transpired was quite the opposite, as the Netherlands, desperate to make amends, bowled with discipline and efficiency to frustrate the South Africa batsmen, who seemed to be having a competition amongst themselves on who can throw their wicket away more incompetently.
The start could not have been more surprising, though. Hashim Amla, under scrutiny over his ability to play in this short format, where if you don't go at a searing clip you are liable to be criticised, got off to a rollicking start, and that too despite Quinton De Kock, yet again, failing at the top.
Amla was severe on Michael Swart in particular, taking the bowlers for a six and four consecutive fours, which in turn pointed to a big South African score.
However, this Proteas side have not been at their best in the World T20, and once Amla (43, 22b, 7x4, 1x6), after his brilliant cameo, got out to Ahsan Malik, edging one to the wicketkeeper, the bowler took over.
Malik (4-0-19-5) would pick up four more wickets, that of Albie Morkel, David Miller, Dale Steyn and Beuran Hendricks, with Tom Cooper, Logan Van Beek and Tim Van Der Gugten chipping in with a wicket a piece - the important ones of Faf Du Plessis (24, 14b, 3x4, 1x6), AB De Villiers (21, 21b, 1x4) and JP Duminy (12, 15b) respectively.
Once South Africa lost Du Plessis and De Villiers, with half the innings still remaining, the task left to Duminy to save their skins yet again proved to be too tall an order as the Netherlands, brilliantly held forth against their illustrious counterparts to restrict the Proteas to a mere 145 for nine.
However, the bowlers one more time pulled a couple of rabbits out of the hat to eke South Africa home against the unlucky Netherlands.
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