Sharjah - The Proteas huffed and puffed - beat England - but ultimately their T20 World Cup house was blown down here at the Sharjah International Cricket Stadium.
Australia had set the Proteas a daunting target even prior to the start of this much-anticipated clash with their eight-wicket thrashing of the West Indies in the morning game. South Africa were required to not only beat England, but had to do so by a margin of more than 60 runs to qualify for the semi-finals by virtue of a superior net run-rate.
They ultimately fell short at their primary objective of qualifying for the knockout stages, but a Kagiso Rabada last over hat-trick ensured South Africa at least ended their tournament on a positive note with a thoroughly entertaining 10-run victory over potential champions England.
The Proteas' failure to progress was certainly not due to lack of effort and enterprise, particularly that of the batters.
Playing above themselves as they have throughout the competition, the Proteas overcome a frightful start. They lost Reeza Hendricks in the third over to a pedestrian – almost criminal - two off eight balls but then engineered their best collective batting effort.
This side does not wilt and through initially the genius of Quinton de Kock and industriousness and finesse of Rassie van der Dussen before the power of Aiden Markram was added to the mix, they hauled themselves into a position where the entire nation back home begun dreaming of the impossible at the interval as South Africa posed a formidable 189/2.
The De Kock-Van der Dussen partnership was worth 71 off 52 balls before the Markram and Van der Dussen explosion of 103 off the identical amount of deliveries.
Van der Dussen's undefeated 94 was a masterpiece of placement and invention, almost delicate in places, and interspersed with moments of brute force. An intoxicating concoction of reverse-sweeps, paddles and ramp shots that took a mere 60 balls, contained five fours and six maximums.
Van der Dussen has often said that “I don’t think anyone can replace AB (de Villiers), but I can be the best version of Rassie”. However, even the great “Mr 360” would have sat on his couch back home in South Africa applauding in appreciation of what was a truly great T20 World Cup innings.
🚨 RESULT | #Proteas WIN BY 10 RUNS— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) November 6, 2021
Rabada claimed a final over hat-trick to ensure we end our #T20WorldCup campaign on a positive note
Key contributions from Shamsi (2/24), Pretorius (2/30), vd Dussen (94*) and Markam (52*) #ENGvSA #T20WorldCup #BePartOfIt pic.twitter.com/HX1IRuSgSl
For SA to give themselves any chance of progressing to the semi-finals though, Van der Dussen required a partner and that he found in the irrepressible Markram. A half-century off just 24 balls – the second fastest of the tournament – was just the impetus the innings required.
But unfortunately for Temba Bavuma’s team the dream was short-lived. There are reasons why England are pound-for-pound the best limited-overs team, and favourites to add this T20 crown to their empire next week in Dubai, in the world.
They may have been uncharacteristically sloppy in the field, frequently conceding silly overthrows, and their seam bowlers off colour on the night, but they still possess firepower like no other within their batting unit.
Even when Mother Cricket seemingly smiled on South Africa when Jason Roy pulled up a hamstring injury – which might be serious in terms’ of England’s future aspirations here in the UAE – just when he was preparing to launch some missiles into the Sharjah night sky, they still had the likes of Jos Buttler (26 off 15 balls), Moeen Ali (37 off 27 balls), Dawid Malan and the powerhouse Liam Livingstone, who belted Kagiso Rabada for three consecutive sixes, that just kept on swinging even when wickets were falling throughout the innings.
It’s the way England play. It’s the way they have earned their success. And it’s the blueprint for South Africa to learn from ahead of launching their next assault on the T20 World Cup in Australia in 12 months time.
South Africa have certainly made progress here in the UAE in terms of forming their own way to earn success in the shortest format.
But ultimately it was their approach to the chase against Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi in comparison to the ruthless way Australia went about theirs against the same opposition that ultimately proved to be the difference between boarding the Emirates A380 for home tomorrow and preparing for a semi-final like England and Australia can now do.
South Africa: 189/2 (Van der Dussen 93*, Markram 52*, Ali 1/27, Rashid 1/32)
England: (Ali 37, Malan 33, Livingstone 28, Shamsi 2/24, Rabada 3/48)
South Africa win by 10 runs