The Proteas celebrate Faf du Plessis' catch to dismiss Australia's Steve Smith during the second T20 International at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix
The Proteas celebrate Faf du Plessis' catch to dismiss Australia's Steve Smith during the second T20 International at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

Proteas fight back to square T20 series

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Feb 23, 2020

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South Africa 158/4
Australia 146/6

SA won by 12 runs

PORT ELIZABETH – South Africa’s bowlers finally stood up, showed they had indeed learned lessons from past mistakes and earned a crucial win amidst a thunderous atmosphere at St. George’s Park on Sunday. 

This was a huge test for the bowling unit which – with different personnel – had conceded 626 runs in the previous three international matches including failing to defend a target of 223 just a week ago. Even in a format that demands variety with the ball, South Africa’s bowlers had been poor with their execution when they went to their off-speed deliveries and the absence of yorkers was a serious problem.

That changed on Sunday, particularly in the last five overs with Australia sailing to victory even though batting had gotten tougher later in the innings when the ball got softer on what was a sluggish surface. Neither side’s batsmen could accelerate the scoring as they’d normally hope to do in the latter stages.

However with South Africa’s bowlers having performed so poorly in the last few weeks, there was more pressure on them. Australia needed 43 off the last 30 balls with eight wickets in hand and when Alex Carey pumped the first ball of the 16th over bowled by Ngidi for six, it seemed the tourists would wrap up the match and series in a hurry.

But Ngidi bowled Carey three balls and then followed two outstanding overs from Kagiso Rabada. Head coach Mark Boucher had called for patience with Rabada last Friday night after he conceded 45 runs in three overs at the Wanderers, and here he bowled the 17th over and conceded just seven runs and then the 19th in which he conceded just three runs one of which was a wide, while also picking up the wicket of Matthew Wade. 

So good were the South Africans at the ‘death’ that David Warner, faced just six of the last 30 balls and even though he made an unbeaten 67 – running brilliantly between the wickets throughout his innings – it proved insufficient with the Australian middle order collapsing against South Africa’s precision. 

Tabraiz Shamsi deserves a lot of credit for his fine four over spell conceding just 17 runs, while Dwaine Pretorius who replaced Andile Phehlukwayo did a fine impression of an off spinner bowling off 10 paces taking 1/29. That one wicket – of Steve Smith – was the result of a superb catch by Faf du Plessis on the long-on boundary – the former captain throwing himself forward towards the ball and poaching it just about the grass. There was an even better catch later, this time Du Plessis utilising some of the rugby skills picked up at Affies to deliver a fine ‘diving pass’ to David Miller on the long-off boundary – which Miller, having to throw himself forward as well – did brilliantly to hold onto ending Mitchell Marsh’s innings. 

South Africa’s innings was built on the back of another sparkling performance from skipper Quinton de Kock who scored 70 off 47 balls. He, like Warner later, took advantage of the hard new ball in the power play and produced some thrilling strokes as South Africa looked on course for a total closer to 200 than they eventually managed.

The nature of the surface, the softer ball and some clever changes of pace, particularly by Kane Richardson (2/21) meant they scratched their way to 158, with Rassie van der Dussen’s 37 off 28 balls ultimately proving a valuable contribution.

It proved just enough for the bowlers, and will be a significant boost to their confidence with the series now up for grabs at Newlands on Wednesday.

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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