Bowlers kept Proteas in the game in Nepal thriller, says Aiden Markram

Proteas spinner Tabraiz Shamsi claimed four wickets against Nepal yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Proteas spinner Tabraiz Shamsi claimed four wickets against Nepal yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Published Jun 16, 2024


Just when Nepal looked well on course to engineer a massive upset against the Proteas, spinner Tabraiz Shamsi turned on the magic to claim two wickets to set up a thrilling one-run win in yesterday’s T20 World Cup clash at the Arnos Vale Stadium in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

But it all came down to the final over from Ottniel Baartman, with Nepal needing eight runs to win, and the Warriors star conceded just six – and there was a run out off the final ball – to maintain the South Africans’ unbeaten start.

“(We wanted) to keep it really simple. We thought if we were still hitting a hard length, the odd one would shoot low and we could keep the stumps in play,” Proteas captain Aiden Markram was reported as saying on the ICC website.

“I didn’t want us to go too full, so that if we missed, it became an easy hit. So, sticking to that hard length, and using the short ball as we did to our advantage and just getting the timing right with bowling the short one as well worked.

“Pretty straightforward … I don’t think it was necessarily a ‘death plan’. It was your simple middle-overs plan that we felt will work best on that pitch.”

On a sluggish pitch, the Proteas battled to get going and managed just 115/7 in their 20 overs.

Opener Reeza Hendricks finally got some runs after a difficult start to the T20 World Cup, scoring 43 off 49 balls (5x4, 1x6), but he didn’t have much support from the rest of the top order.

Left-hander Quinton de Kock perished for 10 and skipper Markram for 15, and worse was to follow for the South Africans as big-hitters Heinrich Klaasen (three) and David Miller (seven) didn’t reach double figures.

Tristan Stubbs was able to get a few boundaries away to end on 27 not out, but defending the victory target of 116 seemed a tough ask.

Nepal made a solid start with a 35-run opening stand between Aasif Sheikh (42) and Kushal Bhurtel (13), and were well on their way to a memorable triumph at 85/2 in the 14th over.

But Markram stepped up to dismiss Anil Sah for 27, and then it was the Shamsi (4/19) show as he got rid of Dipendra Airee (six) and Sheikh in the 18th over, before Anrich Nortjé and Baartman completed the job as Nepal ended on 114/7.

“Shamsi was excellent. It’s fantastic to have him back in the team to get an opportunity to get some time in the middle and to bowl the way he did,” Markram said.

“From a bowling point of view, not too many concerns, but a lot of learning can take place in the other two facets, I feel. I think they bowled well. I think once again, we didn’t give them the total they might have liked to defend.

“So, you do have to be really appreciative that they’ve kept us in the game and managed to get it down to the last over.

“Our fast-bowling unit has been bowling really well in this competition, and you want to back that and give them the freedom, and let them sort of feel that they can win you games on any wicket really. So, I thought they bowled well tonight.”

Proteas coach Rob Walter will hope that more of his batters come to the party in the Super Eight stage of the tournament, though, but he will be delighted with Hendricks’ contribution against Nepal.

The South Africans’ first Super Eight clash will be against surprise packages United States – who qualified ahead of Pakistan and Ireland from Group A – on Wednesday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua (4.30pm SA time start).