Mumbai, March 20 (IANS) Riding on swashbuckling batsman AB de Villiers’ quickfire half-century (64 off 29 balls) followed by seamer Chris Morris’ impressive four-wicket haul, South Africa edged past a spirited Afghanistan by 37 runs in their second Group 1 clash of the World Twenty20 cricket tournament at the Wankhede Stadium here on Sunday.
Batting first, the Proteas posted 209/5 in 20 overs, which included crucial knocks from De Villiers, Quinton de Kock (45) and Faf du Plessis (41).
In reply, despite opener Mohammad Shahzad’s blistering 19-ball 44 at the start, Afghanistan lost wickets at regular intervals and were bundled out for 172 in 20 overs.
For South Africa, Chris Morris (4-27), Imran Tahir (2-24), Kyle Abbott (2-36) and Kagiso Rabada (2-37) were the pick of the bowlers.
Chasing a stiff target of 210, opener Shahzad and Noor Ali Zadran (25) got Afghanistan off to a rollicking start, scoring 50 inside four overs.
Shahzad struck three fours and five sixes but his stay in the middle was short-lived as seamer Chris Morris cleaned him up to help South Africa claw back into the game.
Skipper Asghar Stanikzai (7) who came in next too fell cheaply to have the team struggling at 60/2 in sixth over.
Inexperience in the middle order showed as Gulbadin Naib (26), Mohammad Nabi (11), Samiullah Shenwari (25) all were dismissed despite getting starts.
The Proteas’ bowlers, despite getting hit for runs, picked up wickets at regular intervals in the middle overs to have the opposition in the backfoot.
Earlier opting to bat, South Africa were given a flying start by openers Quinton se Kock and Hashim Amla (5), scoring 21 runs off the first two overs.
But Amla’s stay at the crease was cut short as, while trying to hit the ball over the covers, the right-handed batsman chipped it straight to mid-off. South were 25/1 inside three overs.
But Proteas skipper Du Plessis played positively along with de Kock to help team post 66 runs after six overs.
Du Plessis, who struck seven boundaries and a six, was becoming a threat to Afghan bowlers but was run out when Mohammad Nabi came up with a good effort in the field.
The Proteas received a double blow as another set batsman de Kock, after smacking six fours and two sixes in his 31-ball innings, was caught by the wicketkeeper to have South Africa at 97/3 in 12th over.
De Villiers took a bit of time to settle down but freed his arms to smack leg-spinner Rashid Khan for 29 runs in the 17th over. It included four sixes, one four and a single that also brought up his eighth T20 internal half-century in just 24 balls.
The innings proved to be costly for Afghanistan as de Villiers was dropped on 26 and 35 to bludgeone four boundaries and five massive sixes.
De Villiers and his partner Jean-Paul Duminy (29 not out) struck 76-run partnership for the fourth wicket to take team past 150-run mark.
Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Amir Hamza claimed one wicket each for Afghanistan.
Brief scores: South Africa 209/5 in 20 overs (AB de Villiers 64, Quinton de Kock 45, Faf du Plessis 41; Amir Hamza 1/25, Shapoor Zadran 1/28, Mohammad Nabi 1/35, Dawlat Zadran 1/46) vs Afghanistan 172 in 20 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 44; Chris Morris 4-27, Imran Tahir 2-24, Kyle Abbott 2-36, Kagiso Rabada 2-37)
(Aritra Chowdhury can be contacted at email@example.com)