Dubai: In a match that had all the ingredients of an edge of the seat thriller, swinging from one end to the other until the last over, South Africa’s shoddy fielding caused their downfall, providing the turning point for Kane Williamson’s team to extend their unbeaten run.
While the New Zealand skipper did everything right to stay until the end on a difficult wicket to complete a well-deserved century and take his team past the stiff target, the South Africans did not get their act together, missing many chances that came their way.
Catches, some very difficult half chances, and some run outs were missed. In a close match like this, even one error would come back to bite you, but they were galore at Edgbaston. What was even more glaring was the way wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock did not appeal after catching a faint edge off Williamson, despite staying close to the bat, off Imran Tahir’s last ball of his miserly and brilliant spell. This eventually proved a costly lapse.
With the South Africans aiding immensely for their own downfall, Williamson was given a huge helping hand by Collin de Grandhomme, whose calculated counter-attack swung the match in Black Caps’ favour, making his captain’s life a lot easier.
It was a wicket where the batsmen had to struggle for every run. The downpour over the last few days have left the pitch with a soft bounce, leaving a little doubt in the batsmen’s minds. Most batsmen had a strike-rate hovering around mid-60s, but de Grandhomme, coming in at the loss of the fifth wicket, played an innings with a strike rate of 127.
Andile Phehlukwayo’s selection also made the New Zealander’s chase easier, as they attacked the South African pacer at will to ease the pressure applied by the rest. South African skipper Faf du Plessis had only five bowlers at his disposal, so had no other option but to complete his quota of overs. When others had an economy rate between 3.3-4.9 runs an over, Phehlukwayo gave away around 8.5 runs an over, proving the weak-link in the Proteas armoury.
All credit to Williamson for remaining calm under such tough circumstances, the hallmark of his game. After both the innings followed a similar path in the first hour, South Africa had a lucky break when Martin Guptill was out hit-wicket. Despite losing more wickets at the other end, Kane proved he is an able customer, tailor-made for such circumstances.
Once again South Africa have failed to deliver on the big stage as their chances to qualify for the semi-finals are almost over.