Rassie van der Dussen, Andile Phehlukwayo seal nervy chase for South Africa

Alastair Cook announces retirement from professional cricket

South Africa 247 for 5 (van der Dussen 76*, de Kock 41, Nabi 2-35, Rashid 2-37) won Afghanistan 244 (Omarzai 97*, Coetzee 4-44, Maharaj 2-25) for five wickets

A 62-ball 65 partnership between Rassie van der Dussen and Andile Phehlukwayo guided South Africa to a victory against Afghanistan in their final match of the league stage of the ODI World Cup 2023, ensuring they did not stutter in a tricky chase before their semi-final. -final against Australia.

Phehlukwayo came in at number 7 with South Africa needing 63, but Afghanistan’s spinners possessed the momentum of the game. Phehlukwayo finished the game with 6, 4, 6 to finish unbeaten on 39, while van der Dussen controlled the chase with his 95-ball 76*.

By the afternoon, Gerald Coetzee (4-44) and Keshav Maharaj (2-25) had ensured that Afghanistan could only make 244 in 50 overs. In fact, the target could have been much lower had it not been for Azmatullah Omarzai’s unbeaten 97 that deftly held Afghanistan’s crumbling innings together.

“We fought until the last moment,” Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi said after the defeat, and this also summed up his bowling effort. They came back magnificently after South Africa’s openers put on 64 for the first wicket, but Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s Temba Bavuma (23) wicket and Mohammad Nabi’s Quinton de Kock (41) wicket in quick succession applied pressure on South Africa.

Led by Rashid Khan’s penetrating and worrying spell of 2 for 37, Afghanistan also removed Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller without the trio doing much damage, and when Phehlukwayo – playing his first World Cup match – joined van der Dussen, It seemed that Afghanistan was one more step away from exposing the lower order. That did not happen, and South Africa dismissed any lingering doubts about their chasing ability.

For van der Dussen, the Man of the Match, his 76 unbeaten innings was his fourth fifty-plus score in the World Cup. He came in at 64 for 1 and clinically rotated the strike from the start. In all, he scored 38 runs on singles and four on twos in his 95 innings, once every 2.26 deliveries.

That helped him stay on top of the Afghan spinners during the middle games, and when Noor Ahmad or Mujeeb made mistakes, he punished them to keep South Africa’s scoreboard moving. His stability at one end ensured that South Africa never fell behind in the game, even when wickets fell regularly, and he was strong behind the square, hitting five of his six fours between the deep third and the deep back square.

Earlier in the day, Afghanistan opted to bat first knowing they needed an improbable 438-run win to move into fourth place in the points table. The opening stand flourished briefly but two consecutive overs bowled by Maharaj and Coetzee sent Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran back before the powerplay ended. Maharaj then removed Shahidi to reduce Afghanistan to 45 for 3 and went on to produce a miserable spell of 2 for 25 which included 41 no-nonsense.

Coetzee brought the fire through the middle overs, giving a good account of himself during the first few middle overs when Lungi Ngidi was out with a hamstring problem. He would also trap Ibrahim Alikhil and Noor behind, and also dismissed Mujeeb with a short ball to finish with 4 for 44. Rabada was run out of wickets but only conceded 40 in 10 overs, while Ngidi’s two wickets kept Afghanistan in check even though it was expensive in death.

Afghanistan’s wrecker-in-chief, especially when it came to Ngidi, was Omarzai, who came in with 45 for 3, but held firm even as the wickets fell to his side. In the company of Rashid and Noor, he dragged Afghanistan from 116 for 6 to 204 for 8 before a late attack took them swiftly towards the century. A clean Rabada ensured that he would fall short by three runs, however, his innings of seven fours and three sixes ensured that Afghanistan had a score they could possibly defend, even if that was not the case in the end.

Afghanistan finishes the World Cup with its head held high, winning four games out of nine and almost winning the fifth. This is their best performance in the World Cup and they have also secured their place in the Champions Trophy 2025. They are confirmed for at least sixth place in the table. South Africa now have a rematch of the 1999 semi-final awaiting them in Kolkata, and if they win there, they will return to Ahmedabad for the final on November 19.

Sreshth Shah is Deputy Editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx