Skipper AB de Villiers smashed the England attack for 69 to be named man of the match as SA qualified for the ICC T20 semi-finals. Photo by: A.M. Ahad/AP

Zaahier Adams in Chittagong

South Africa have searched for “the perfect game” after a couple of indifferent performances at this World T20 and, though the scoreboard suggests a close game, there was only one team in control of a virtual quarter-final last night.

The Proteas can pack their bags for Dhaka and start preparing for the heady atmosphere of a World T20 semi-final in the nation’s capital. They cannot be overtaken on six points, despite the two matches remaining in Group 1.

The batting unit, which had been stuck in reverse during the tournament, found their gears and quickly shifted into overdrive last night.

Premier batsmen Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers took on the responsibility and lifted the Proteas to the highest total of the tournament.

Both struck half-centuries – Amla’s first in this format at international level – although it was their impressive strike-rates that hurt England.

Amla takes a lot of criticism for the way he constructs a T20 innings, but his range of shots in his last two innings has proved the old age theory that class is permanent regardless of the format. His 56 came off 37 balls, a strike-rate of 151.35.

On any other day Amla would have been on the top of the table in terms of strike-rates, but not when he has a teammate like the world’s No 1 batsman in Test and One-Day cricket, De Villiers.

The raging debate about what De Villiers’s best batting position is – many leading figures in South African cricket believe it’s No 3 – would have been reignited with the stand-in skipper playing his best T20 innings in a long while.

That De Villiers walked to the crease in the 11th over, after Amla and Quinton de Kock shared a 90-run partnership for the first wicket, cannot be ignored.

It allowed De Villiers the freedom to unleash his extraordinary array of strokes without fear that South Africa could be bowled out in the remaining nine overs.

Out came the reverse-paddle, the on-bended knee slap over the bowler’s head, the step to leg to open the off-side for a rapier-like cut shot past point and then, moving in the opposite direction, leaving his stumps naked to smash the ball over the leg-side for six for a strike-rate of 246.42.

It was a batting exhibition of the highest calibre in his 28-ball stay at the crease.

But this brilliance still needed the bowlers to back it up, not an easy task considering the dew factor.

This mission proved more challenging when Australian umpire Ross Tucker made a horrendous mistake by calling Albie Morkel for a front-foot no-ball when England’s dangerous opener, Alex Hales, cut a short delivery straight to point. Tucker did not ask for the television replays that indicated Morkel was behind the line, and England’s centurion from their last game was offered a reprieve.

He reaped the rewards by crashing Morkel’s next two deliveries to the boundary.

But the wiry opener could not repeat his heroics when Wayne Parnell showed the Proteas what they were missing while he was appearing in a Mumbai court this week.

The left-armer made it count with three wickets, including Hales, who fell to a lofted drive comfortably taken by David Miller at deep point.

Hales’s dismissal was effectively the end of England’s challenge, with the remaining batsmen fighting valiantly but unable to keep up with the required run-rate. - Sunday Tribune