Bowlers keep cool in death overs and Phehluk­wayo seals it

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - LUNGANI ZAMA

THERE is fire in the Protea, yet. It came back into bloom at a bounc­ing Taun­ton last night, as South Africa held their nerve to beat Eng­land by just three runs in a sec­ond T20 in­ter­na­tional that turned out to be a thriller.

South Africa turned up, that is for sure. They bat­ted with ur­gency as crisp as the Som­er­set air, though they still prob­a­bly felt they were a bit short – prob­a­bly an­other 30 runs – of a to­tal that was war­ranted by a bel­ter of a wicket.

And yet, de­spite that short­com­ing, their bowlers – and some de­fi­ant field­ing – didn’t give up the ghost. The match took a turn for the slightly tense when Jason Roy( 67 off 45 balls), was given out for ob­struct­ing the field, when he met an Andile Phehluk­wayo shy at the non-striker’s stumps from back­ward point.

Chris Mor­ris, the bowler, was ab­so­lutely con­vinced that Roy had changed his path, and de­nied South Africa a run-out chance. Af­ter some de­lib­er­a­tion, the third um­pire agreed with him, to the ab­so­lute dis­gust of the 12 000-strong home crowd.

Mor­ris, obliv­i­ous to the howl­ing, charged in, and ought to have had a wicket with his fi­nal ball of the over – and his spell – but Liam Liv­ing­stone was wrongly given a life. The crowd roared their ap­proval, and Mor­ris cursed his way to deep square-leg.

It was the small bit of spice that turned an entertaining match into a rather ab­sorb­ing fi­nale. If there was one thing we could take out of it all, it was that South Africa still care deeply, as they im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly on their dis­mal ef­fort from a few days be­fore.

With bat in hand, they had spec­tac­u­lar bursts of pen­e­tra­tion. Jon- Jon Smuts drilled some quite sat­is­fy­ing shots in a 35-ball 45, the sort of knock that made those who don’t watch do­mes­tic cricket un­der­stand why he was in na­tional colours.

AB de Vil­liers was given a hearty wel­come to the crease by the Som­er­set fans, clearly a lot who un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate that this may well be the first and last time he graces their turf. The South African skip­per re­sponded with an imp­ish 46, off just 20 balls.

There is an un­mis­tak­able crack off the De Vil­liers blade when he smites one, and there were a few gun­shots that rung around Taun­ton town as he un­furled some of his un­com­pro­mis­ing best. While he was there, the tourists could dream of 200 and beyond.

Once he fell, how­ever, ambitions dipped to 190, then 180, then set­tled on 174 for eight, thanks to some late spank­ing from Farhaan Be­har­dien (32). He picked up where he left off on Wed­nes­day, and that is no bad thing for him and this team.

With ball in hand, South Africa kept at it. Morne Morkel charged in again, and Dane Pater­son and Phehluk­wayo both re­sponded to their cap­tain’s call with ma­tu­rity and a mea­sure of con­trol.

Once Mor­ris’ dra­matic over livened things up, South Africa found their killer in­stinct once more. De Vil­liers called them in, and im­plored them to not let this one slip. There was ur­gency in the field and, save for a few wides, Pater­son and Phehluk­wayo (it does sound like a newage law firm) were ac­cu­rate in their ex­e­cu­tion.

De Vil­liers has not been shy to give his young man from Dur­ban the ball at the death, and that faith was re­paid. De­fend­ing 11 runs at the death, Phehluk­wayo held his nerve, even though his penul­ti­mate ball went for four.

A fur­ther four was needed off the last, but he nailed the yorker length, and he was mobbed by ten ec­static team-mates.

The Proteas played with­out their coach, af­ter he flew home for a fam­ily emergency. Wher­ever he is, he will surely be proud of the fight­ing spirit that was shown in his ab­sence.

Cardiff will now host an in­trigu­ing fi­nale to­mor­row.

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