Recent Match Report – Afghanistan vs South Africa 42nd Match 2023/24

South Africa 247 for 5 (van der Dussen 76*, de Kock 41, Nabi 2-35, Rashid 2-37) beat Afghanistan 244 (Omarzai 97*, Coetzee 4-44, Maharaj 2-25) by five wickets

A 62-ball partnership of 65 between Rassie van der Dussen and Andile Phehlukwayo shepherded South Africa to a win against Afghanistan in their last league-stage game of the 2023 ODI World Cup, ensuring they didn’t stutter in a tricky chase before their semi-final against Australia.

Phehlukwayo came in as the No. 7 with South Africa needing 63 but with Afghanistan’s spinners then possessing the game’s momentum. Phehlukwayo finished the game with 6, 4, 6 to finish unbeaten on 39 while van der Dussen controlled the chase with his 95-ball 76*.

In the afternoon, Gerald Coetzee (4-44) and Keshav Maharaj (2-25) had ensured Afghanistan could only make 244 in 50 overs. In fact, the target could’ve been much less had it not been for Azmatullah Omarzai‘s unbeaten 97 that expertly held the crumbling Afghanistan innings together.

“We fought right till the last moment”, Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi said after their defeat, and that summed up their bowling effort too. They came back superbly after South Africa’s openers put on 64 for the first wicket but Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s wicket of Temba Bavuma (23) and Mohammad Nabi’s wicket of Quinton de Kock (41) in quick succession applied pressure on South Africa.

Led by Rashid Khan’s penetrative and troubling spell of 2 for 37, Afghanistan also picked off Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller without the trio doing much damage, and when Phehlukwayo – playing his first game of the World Cup – joined van der Dussen, it seemed like Afghanistan were one more wicket away from exposing the lower order. That didn’t happen, and South Africa brushed aside any lingering doubts about their chasing capabilities.

For van der Dussen, the Player of the Match, his unbeaten innings of 76 was his fourth fifty-plus score of the World Cup. He walked in at 64 for 1, and clinically rotated the strike early on. In all, he scored 38 runs off singles and four off twos in his 95-ball innings – once every 2.26 deliveries.

That helped him stay on top of the Afghan spinners through the middle overs, and when Noor Ahmad or Mujeeb erred, he punished them to keep South Africa’s score moving. His stability at one end ensured South Africa were never behind in the game even when wickets fell regularly, and he was strong behind square, hitting five of his six fours between deep third and deep backward square leg.

Earlier in the day, Afghanistan opted to bat first knowing they needed an improbably 438-run victory to move to fourth on the points table. The opening stand blossomed briefly, but two consecutive wicket-maiden overs bowled by Maharaj and Coetzee sent both Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran back before the powerplay ended. Maharaj then prised out Shahidi to reduce Afghanistan to 45 for 3 and went on to produce a miserly spell of 2 for 25 that included 41 dots and no boundaries.

Coetzee brought the fire through the middle overs, giving a strong account of himself through the early middle overs when Lungi Ngidi was out with a hamstring issue. He would also get Ibrahim Alikhil and Noor caught behind, and also dismissed Mujeeb with a short ball to finish with 4 for 44. Rabada went wicketless but only conceded 40 in 10 overs while Ngidi’s two wickets kept Afghanistan in check even though he was expensive at the death.

Afghanistan’s wrecker-in-chief, especially when it came to Ngidi, was Omarzai, who walked in at 45 for 3, but held fort even as wickets tumbled alongside him. In the company of Rashid and Noor, he dragged Afghanistan from 116 for 6 to 204 for 8 before a late assault took him rapidly towards a century. A tidy Rabada over ensured he would fall three runs short, however his innings of seven fours and three sixes ensured Afghanistan had a score they could possibly defend, even if it wasn’t to be in the end.

Afghanistan finish the World Cup with their heads held high, winning four games in nine, and very nearly winning a fifth. This is their best-ever World Cup performance and they have also secured their place in the 2025 Champions Trophy. They are confirmed at least sixth place on the table. South Africa now have a rematch of the 1999 semi-final awaiting them in Kolkata, and if they win there, they’ll be back in Ahmedabad for the final on November 19.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

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