CARDIFF – Proteas captain Faf du Plessis has admitted he was a “very relieved” man after his team closed out their first victory of the World Cup here on Saturday evening.
South Africa ran through Afghanistan in just 34.1 overs, dismissing the Asian nation for 125. Imran Tahir was the chief-destroyer with 4/29, while all-rounders Chris Morris (3/13) and Andile Phehlukwayo (2/18) played their part too.
Quinton de Kock (68) and Hashim Amla (41*) then ate a chunk out of the target with South Africa’s first 100-run partnership of the World Cup before Phehlukwayo, promoted to No 3, finished off the job.
“Very relieved. Feel a little bit lighter,” Du Plessis said after the nine-wicket victory. “But I think in all our cricket today was much better and much more competitive.
“We spoke a lot about energy in the field and stuff and I think you can really, really see a big difference today on the team. So really pleased with the bowlers. I thought once again Andy and Chris were very good through the middle there. The two of them are starting to put in some real consistent performances now for us with the ball, and that's very, very pleasing to see.”
A second #CWC19 half-century from Quinton de Kock, coupled with seven wickets between Imran Tahir and Chris Morris, saw South Africa claim their first win of the tournament over Afghanistan.— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) June 15, 2019
The Proteas now have 3️⃣ points!#SAvAFG SCORECARD ▶️ https://t.co/1Pwa3jahvz pic.twitter.com/M2tscWSLYR
The skipper, though, also kept special praise for Tahir after the leg-spinner changed the course of the game with two wickets in his first over. Considering the overhead conditions, damp outfield and green-tinged pitch, it was a special performance from South Africa’s oldest player.
“Imran, as always, is special, but I think especially on a wicket like that today where it's not suited for spinners, straight boundaries, to get four wickets like that today was an amazing bowling performance,” he said.
Du Plessis did not want to get too carried away with the victory just yet though, but was ready to take the confidence gained from Saturday into this week’s all-important clash with an in-form New Zealand team in Birmingham.
“The three games coming up now, they three big games for us. But I think if you play like we did today, we will be a better team. There's no doubt about that. We've showed that for – leading up to the tournament.
“The first three games we didn't play like we did today. Forget the opposition. It's the stuff that you can control yourself, and there was energy in the bowlers. There was energy in the fielders. Batters were clear in what they needed to do.
“So hopefully, hopefully this is a real confidence booster for everyone on the team. And there's a little bit, as I said, a little bit of weight that you feel that's off your shoulders now, so now the guys – we know what's lying ahead; we need to win every game that we play. But today was a really good step in the right direction.”