Australia beat South Africa by eight wickets with 14 balls to spare in the Super Eight stage of the ICC World T20 at the Premadasa Stadium on Sunday to all-but eliminate the Proteas from the tournament with a game still to be played.
Opener Shane Watson made light work of 147-run target with an aggressive 70 from just 47 balls and vetran Mike Hussey steered the Aussies home with a typically controlled innings of 45 from 37 deliveries.
South Africa now need to rely on a highly unlikely series of results going their way – including a significant victory of their own against India on Tuesday – in order to sneak into the semi finals on run rate. But it is a faint hope.
Robin Peterson produced an unorthodox but brilliant cameo of 32 from just 19 balls and added 39 from the final three overs with Farhaan Behardien to push the Proteas to a competitive total after the top and middle order had failed against disciplined Australian bowling.
Left hander Peterson employed the ‘switch hit’ to great effect and struck six boundaries while Behardien finally located the boundary towards the end of his innings after struggling against the spinners and finished with an unbeaten 31 from 27 balls with a brace of fours and a six.
Richard Levi continued his horror tournament when he was bowled by spinner Xavier Doherty with the third ball of the match and Jacques Kallis was caught behind off the same bowler in the third over for six.
Hashim Amla’s promising innings of 17 ended when he gloved a bouncer to ‘keeper Matthew Wade and J-P Duminy’s valiant efforts to rebuild when he was comfortably stumped by Wade off Doherty for 30 from 25 deliveries.
Skipper AB de Villiers was unusually but understandably cautious as the overs ran out but a boundary free 21 from 24 deliveries was not the captain’s innings he was so desperate to produce.
“I cannot put my finger on what went wrong,” said De Villiers afterwards, “but I can say that we certainly did not choke tonight. We were just outplayed from start to finish by the better team.
“But we are not a team that ever gives up and as long as we have a chance then we will do everything to finish on a high against India on Tuesday, and we know we will have to raise our game considerably.”