Proteas head for Caribbean in New York state of mind

Keshav Maharaj was the last-over hero of the Proteas’ ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match against Bangladesh in New York on Monday. | IANS

Keshav Maharaj was the last-over hero of the Proteas’ ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match against Bangladesh in New York on Monday. | IANS

Published Jun 12, 2024


Zaahier Adams

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do

Now you're in New York

These streets will make you feel brand new

Big lights will inspire you

Hear it from New York, New York, New York!

I'm gonna make it by any means, I got a pocket full of dreams

Baby, I'm from New York!

These are the words New Yorker Alicia Keys sang in her 2009 No 1 hit single Empire State of Mind with Jay Z.

The track is likely to have stayed in the Proteas’ hearts and minds when they left the Big Apple behind yesterday for the trip to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to continue their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup adventure.

The fortnight spent in New York will certainly not be forgotten in a hurry. And not just the crossing of the Manhattan Bridge and visits to Times Square, Central Park and the iconic Yankee Stadium.

The Proteas’ three matches in New York have been nothing short of remarkable.

From dismissing Sri Lanka for their lowest total to requiring two record middle-order stands after slumping to 12-4 and 23-4 to beat the Netherlands and Bangladesh, respectively, each match in the East Side has been unique in its own right.

New York, where the “noise is always loud, there are sirens all around and the streets are mean”, tested not just the Proteas’ technical abilities but also their collective resolve.

“From our team perspective, we have been in situations like this at these types of tournaments where we haven’t crossed the line. So, it’s been good to see the character come out in these games,” said Proteas last-over hero against Bangladesh, Keshav Maharaj.

“Obviously, the first two games were very low scoring and we caused some issues up front but we still found a way.

“That’s encouraging from our team perspective.”

It is not just the Proteas batters that have been on an emotional roller-coaster ride due to the surface they have encountered in New York. On Monday, in the midst of a pressure-filled contest, Maharaj discovered that he would be bowling the final over of a T20 International for the first time.

It was the end of the 16th over and Bangladesh required just 27 off 24 balls to achieve their first T20 victory over the Proteas.

Considering this tournament had already seen the US stun Pakistan, Afghanistan beat New Zealand and African minnows Uganda claim their maiden victory at a major ICC tournament, the stocks were certainly weighted heavily in favour of the Tigers.

Maharaj could only hope that the seam bowlers left him enough, if anything, to defend in the final six deliveries.

Thanks to some excellent execution from Kagiso Rabada and Ottniel Baartman, the left-arm spinner eventually had 11 runs in his back pocket.

It was just enough as Maharaj – despite delivering three full tosses and a wide – claimed two wickets in the final over to edge the Proteas over the line by just four runs. At the end of the nail-biting over, Maharaj simply looked skywards to give thanks to the gods in relief.

“I knew I was going to bowl the last over from the 16th over onwards,” he said.

“I was more nervous in the penultimate over going through the processes and plans. But I was quite calm and clear in the last over.

“Obviously, my plan was to bowl yorkers.

“I thought he (batsman Mohammad Mahmudullah) got hold of it (the second-last ball of the innings), but luckily the breeze held it up nicely and it was a good catch under pressure from Aiden (Markram).

“It is a small margin of error, but I’ll take it. I was just trying to hit the lower end of the bat. And luckily it played in my favour.”

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