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South African players celebrate after the dismissal of England's Chris Jordan (not pictured) during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah. They won the match but failed to qualify for the semifinals. Image Credit: AFP

England and Australia have qualified for the semifinals. That must have been crushing for South Africa, who crashed out of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup on an inferior net run rate, despite having eight points — the same as England and Australia.

The three teams lost a game each, but South Africa’s narrow loss to Australia hurt them, while other narrow wins didn’t help the run rate. Aaron Finch’s side won big against Bangladesh and the West Indies, which mattered in the scramble for the net run rate. And South Africa were faced with a mammoth task even before they took the field at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Irish Eden Belleza/Gulf News

The Proteas can take heart from the brave performance on Saturday. In a must-win game, they came out with all guns blazing. True, they failed to restrict England below 131, which would have helped them make the last four, but a win against a dominant England is one to savour.

England had lorded over the opposition in the tournament with an incisive attack and a powerful batting. South Africa neutralised both and helped other teams believe that this England team could be beaten. This was England’s first loss in the tournament.

The man responsible for that is Rassie van der Dussen. He’s tall and powerfully built. Usually, he anchors the South African innings. Today, he took time to settle down and opened his broad shoulders to blast England’s best bowler for three sixes in an over. Chris Woakes, who bowled a tight three-over spell at the start, found his figures mangled.

Van der Dussen (94) and Aiden Markram (52) strung together an unbeaten 103 in 52 balls, and that third-wicket stand gave South Africa a huge total. England had the batting to overhaul it, but the pressure keeps building, and it’s relentless, as Eoin Morgan’s team found out today. Losing Jason Roy to injury didn’t help either.

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England have the batting depth to chase the target, and they did it with gusto. But frequent fall of wickets didn’t help. With 14 needed off the last over, Kagiso Rabada struck a hat-trick with the first three balls, and the match was over.

A strange game indeed. Rabada had gone for plenty of runs in the match. Livingstone smashed three sixes in a row in the 16th over, bowled by Rabada, and that extinguished South Africa’s hopes of making the semifinals. And in the end, it was Rabada’s magic that won the game for South Africa.

The Proteas can go home with their heads held high. They gave a good account of themselves. If they had won some of their games more authoritatively, their World Cup story would have had a different ending.