Pakistan stay in contention for semis

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SYDNEY, Nov 3, (AP): Pakistan stayed in contention for the T20 World Cup semifinals after beating South Africa by 33 runs in a rain-affected match on Thursday. South Africa would have clinched a top-four berth with a win, and have a last chance on Sunday against the Netherlands. Pakistan have won two after two opening losses and face Bangladesh on Sunday. But the winners of the clash will need help from others in Group 2 to advance.

Pakistan’s Babar Azam bats during the T20 World Cup cricket match between Pakistan and South Africa in Sydney, Australia. (AP)

Shadab Khan smashed a 21-ball half-century to lead Pakistan to 184-9 after being 43-4 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Rain interrupted South Africa’s chase, and the target was revised to 142 off 14 overs on the Duckworth- Lewis-Stern method. But the Proteas were restricted to 108-9. Shadab picked up two wickets with his first three deliveries and was an easy man-of-the-match pick.

His blistering 52 off 22 balls, which featured four sixes and three fours, revived Pakistan. Iftikhar Ahmed added 51 off 35 balls against sloppy South African fielding. “The pitch was nice, a bit slow, but the ball came onto the bat nicely,” Shadab said after what he described as his best T20 batting performance. Pakistan’s troublesome top order collapsed against South Africa’s pace and Pakistan could have been 44-5 if Quinton de Kock hadn’t dropped a difficult catch behind the wickets when Iftikhar was on 2. After Babar Azam’s fourth consecutive single-digit score, Mohammad Haris, in for the injured Fakhar Zaman, hit fast bowler Kagiso Rabada for two sixes and a four in a quickfire 28 off 11 balls before he was undone by Anrich Nortje’s pace and was out lbw. Iftikhar capitalized on de Kock’s drop and added a half-century stand with Mohammad Nawaz. But Shadab brought a boisterous Pakistan crowd to its feet with power hitting. South Africa struggled to stem the flow of runs under light drizzle, and the umpires kept the players on the field. The 82-run stand in the last seven overs took Pakistan to 177-5 before South Africa hit back late with three wickets. Shadab and Iftikhar holed out in the deep.

Nortje took 4-41. Shaheen Afridi provided Pakistan with a perfect start to the chase with the wickets of de Kock and Rilee Rossouw but captain Temba Bavuma (36) and Aiden Markram (20) smashed fast bowler Haris Rauf for 37 runs off his first two overs to keep South Africa in the game. Shadab turned the game back in Pakistan’s favor when he had Bavuma caught behind off his first ball and clean bowled Markram with a sharp googly. South Africa slipped to 66-4. After the rain break, South Africa couldn’t cope with the pressure of scoring more than 14 an over.

“Definitely disappointing the way we ended our bowling and fielding,” Bavuma said. “Credit to them, they had the momentum and took it with them through the bowling innings. Netherlands next, a big game, we want to put this game past us as quickly as possible and come again.” Meanwhile, Malibongwe Maketa was named interim head coach of the South Africa cricket team and will take charge of the Proteas for a three-test tour of Australia starting next month. Maketa will replace Mark Boucher, who will step down as head coach after the ongoing Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.

The 42-year-old Maketa is currently the South Africa “A” team coach and head of the national academy, and has been part of the senior team’s coaching group before. He was an assistant coach with the Proteas from 2017-19. His appointment is only for the Tests in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in December and January, with Cricket South Africa expected to make a permanent appointment early next year.

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