Imran Tahir grabbed four wickets while Quinton de Kock stroked a half century to guide South Africa to a nine-wicket victory over Afghanistan, their first of the 2019 ICC Cricket World C up, at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on Saturday.
Man of the match Tahir, who ended with 4-29 from seven overs, grabbed three quick wickets to put the skids under Afghanistan who were finally bowled out for 125 in 34.1 overs thanks to some lusty blows from Rahis Khan (35) after being put into bat by Faf du Plessis at the toss.
The Proteas laboured somewhat in achieving their Duckworth/Lewis/Stern revised target of 127, ending on 131 for one from 28.4 overs with De Kock scoring his second half century of the tournament, being the only wicket to fall for 68 from 72 deliveries.
Rain forced the teams from the field of play twice during the Afghanistan innings, resulting in the match being reduced to 48 overs per side. The side led by Gulbadin Naib had made a fair start to their innings with Hazratullah Zazai (22) and Noor Ali Zadran (32) posting a decent 39 runs for the first wicket.
The first rain interruption brought about the first breakthrough when Kagiso Rabada Kagiso Rabada (8-1-36-1) had the left-handed Hazratullah caught by Rassie van der Dussen on the square leg boundary. Chris Morris (6.1-2-13-3) then dismissed an out-of-sorts Rahmat Shah (6), who faced 22 balls before being trapped in front.
The second downpour occurred with Afghanistan set on 69 for two with Noor Ali and Hashmatullah Shahidi (8) at the crease but Tahir was introduced after the break and the veteran legspinner made an immediate impact. Tahir’s first ball saw the middle stump of Noor Ali disturbed and just four balls later the legspinner was at it again, having Ashgar Afghan (0) caught and bowled.
Andile Phehlukwayo (8-1-18-2) then got Mohammad Nabi playing on for just a single two balls later before Tahir had Naib (5) well caught by Aiden Markram at short mid-wicket. Morris then returned to have wicketkeeper Ikram Alikhil caught at first slip by Hashim Amla for just nine to leave Afghanistan teetering on 77 for seven.
But Rashid lashed six boundaries from just 25 balls to heave Afghanistan over the 100-run mark, taking a liking to Tahir’s seventh over, which went for 14 runs but Tahir, who is retiring at the end of this World Cup, had the final say having Rashid caught by Van der Dussen on the deep mid-wicket boundary.
Morris finished off the innings when Aftab Alam launched the ball high up into the air with Du Plessis running in from mid-off to take the catch.
South Africa’s target was revised slightly due to the reduction in overs, having to chase 127 in 48 overs with De Kock and Amla set with the task of chasing the total down as quickly as possible to improve the Proteas’ nett run-rate.
Both batsmen took their time and struggle to move the ball around with the pair scoring just 35 runs in the first 10 overs. The pair finally raised their 50-run stand from 78 deliveries with Amla having scored just 17 runs and De Kock 35. De Kock looked to kick on, bringing up his 50 off 58 balls with six boundaries.
The left-handed De Kock finally struck eight boundaries in his knock of 68 which came off 72 balls before pulling Naib (6-0-29-1) sweetly but straight to Nabi at short mid-wicket but not after he and Amla had brought up their century stand off 138 balls. In a surprise move, and with only 23 runs to get, the Proteas sent in Phehlukwayo at number three.
Phehlukwayo, who finished off the match with a sweetly-timed six off Nabi (6.4-0-29-0) down the ground, ended unbeaten on 17 from 17 balls while an out-of-touch Amla ended unbeaten on 41 from 83 balls, which included just four boundaries.
After having lost their first three games and earning a point against the West Indies thanks to the weather, South Africa have moved up from ninth on the log to seventh with three points from five games and will need to win their remaining four matches if they hope to make the semi finals.
The Proteas next face New Zealand on Wednesday at Edgebaston in Birmingham while Afghanistan, who remain bottom without a win from four starts, head over to Old Trafford in Manchester to take on the hosts England on Tuesday.