Home Sport Cricket Proteas had to dig deep to come good against plucky US

Proteas had to dig deep to come good against plucky US

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The Proteas batters finally came to the party in the opening T20 World Cup Super Eight clash against the United States at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Wednesday.

South Africa’s Quinton de Kock hits a six during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match against the United States at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua and Barbuda on June 19, 2024. Picture: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS, AFP

AFTER relying on their bowling attack during the group stages to close out four consecutive victories, the Proteas batters finally came to the party in the opening T20 World Cup Super Eight clash against the United States at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Wednesday.

And it was none other than Quinton de Kock (74 off 40 balls) who set the platform for a dominant Proteas batting display that led to an eventual 18-run victory.

It was certainly required, for the US fought until the very end due to a magnificent 80 not out from 47 balls by South Africa-born opener Andries Gous that almost tore up the script in Antigua.

ALSO READ: Proteas evade clutches of spirited US in T20 World Cup Super 8 thriller

But it was De Kock – who is playing in his last major international tournament – who would have heard the whispers questioning his commitment to the cause after consecutive failures in New York and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

With SA20 Season 2 leading run-scorer Ryan Rickelton ready to be unleashed from the dug-out, De Kock had the motivation to show everyone that he is not quite done just yet.

The veteran left-hander feasted on a buffet of full tosses delivered to him from the American seamers as he pulled and drove with power and panache.

But with a maiden T20 World Cup century beckoning, De Kock was visibly upset with himself when he fell to yet another one of those full deliveries, smashing left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh to deep mid-wicket, where the ball held up in the breeze just enough for it to be pouched on the edge of the rope.

This was a brief period of respite for the Americans, with David Miller (0) chipping the very next delivery straight back to Singh.

But there was enough before and after for the Proteas to post 194/4 – their highest total of the competition.

Opener Reeza Hendricks (11 off 11 balls) was the only other batter to miss out along with Miller, as captain Aiden Markram also enjoyed a welcome return to form.

Markram stroked an elegant 46 from 32 balls (4×4, 1×6) during a 110-run partnership with De Kock, before Heinrich Klaasen (36 not out off 22) and Tristan Stubbs (20 not out off 16) maintained the momentum by adding a rapid 53 off the final five overs of the innings.

The US reply was free-spirited from the outset, with Stephen Taylor creaming Marco Jansen’s first delivery of the innings to the square boundary before enjoying the fact that the Proteas opted for Markram’s tame off-spinners with the new ball instead of Kagiso Rabada.

It was only after Taylor (24 off 14 balls) smashed a couple more boundaries in Jansen’s second over that the Proteas turned to Rabada, who had immediate success when he forced the powerful left-hander to splice a length delivery to Markram at mid-off.

The innings lost momentum after Taylor’s dismissal, with Rabada removing Nitish Kumar before spin twins Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi both struck in their opening overs to tighten the noose during the middle period. Maharaj (1/24) claimed the big wicket of American skipper Aaron Jones for a duck when he edged behind to De Kock, before Shamsi trapped Shayan Jahangir plumb in front with his very first ball of the innings.

With Anrich Nortjé also yorking former New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson – who was part of the Black Caps side that beat the Proteas in the epic Auckland 2015 World Cup semi-final – during this period, the US had slumped to 76/5, and it seemed that the wind had been sucked out of the Americans’ sails.

But the US had not qualified for this stage of the competition without showing the customary American gusto as they staged a remarkable fight-back through former Knights batter Gous and Harmeet Singh.

Gous, who was still playing first-class cricket back in Bloemfontein as recently as 2021, kept the US flame burning with Singh as the pair blazed 91 off just 43 balls for the sixth wicket.

With Shamsi (1/50) conceding 22 runs in the 18th over, the equation was now a very attainable 28 off the final two overs.

Fortunately for the Proteas, though, they could rely on Rabada’s class and experience as he forced Singh (38 off 22 balls) to hit into the stiff breeze where he was comfortably caught by Tristan Stubbs on the boundary.

Rabada conceded just two runs off the penultimate over before Nortjé closed off the American innings without any further alarms as the Proteas strode not so confidently to their fifth consecutive victory – and all-important first in the Super Eight stage.

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