T20 World Cup

Proteas pay dearly for timid batting in tight opening defeat to Aussies

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Tabraiz Shamsi. (Photo by Isuru Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images)
Tabraiz Shamsi. (Photo by Isuru Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images)

Previous form proved downright misleading as the Proteas slumped to a five-wicket defeat at the hands of a supposedly vulnerable Australian side in their opening match of the ICC T20 World Cup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

AS IT HAPPENED | SA v Australia

Indeed, the two arch-rivals had gone into the match on the back of contrasting fortunes, with South Africa quietly racking up three successive T20 series wins.

2021 though has been fairly traumatic for the Aussies, who've lost their last five T20 series assignments going into the tournament.

By the end of proceedings at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, all of that was forgotten.

It would be inaccurate, however, to suggest that the Proteas ran into the buffers as their opponents were far from rampant.

Rather, the Australians - who had their sticky moments with the bat at the start of their reply - used their imposing and varied attack to simply strangle a South African batting order that still struggles for consistency and, more importantly, conviction.

A total of 118/9 certainly wasn't on the agenda and suggested the Proteas' scars from last year's bilateral series at home before the pandemic are still being carried.

Their two lowest scores in the format - 89 at the Wanderers and 96 at Newlands - came in that series, while Saturday's effort was their second lowest in the T20 World Cup.

It all started so promisingly as skipper Temba Bavuma twice drove an off-colour Mitchell Starc for boundaries and seemingly laying down a marker in the opening over. 

Three deliveries later, the diminutive right-hander went back to the off-spin of Glenn Maxwell and was castled by an arm ball that kept a tad low, a blow the Proteas never recovered from.

The indomitable Josh Hazlewood was the main protagonist, dislodging Rassie van der Dussen with a peach outside off before inducing an awkward flick down leg from key man Quinton de Kock, which looped up and fell onto his stumps.

His opening spell read a fantastic 2/1 from two overs.

46/4 eventually became 98/8 as South Africa also failed to cope with the leg-spin of Adam Zampa (2/21) but were indebted to Aiden Markram, who showed spurts of class in a 36-ball 40.

His majestic six over mid-wicket off Hazlewood (2/19) was a highlight.

There was also the comical run out of Keshav Maharaj, who unwisely tried to go for a single from an overthrow and then slipped onto his back trying to get back.

Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje also deserved some plaudits for sticking it out in adding 17 useful runs, with the former again showing his latent batting ability in striking a eye-catching, one-handed six off Starc.

With little runs to play with, South Africa needed to be accurate in the field and, by all accounts, they were.

Nortje (2/21) struck in the second over when he had Aussie captain Aaron Finch caught at third man, while Rabada, after being struck for two boundaries by David Warner, had his revenge when he stuck to a full length and had him smartly caught at backward point.

When Mitchell Marsh holed out at deep midwicket off Maharaj, the Proteas were back in the game at 38/3.

The typically busy Steve Smith (35) and Maxwell restored parity before both were out to false strokes.

Smith tried to take on Nortje with a pull, only to be brilliantly caught by a diving Markram at long-on and his partner missed a reverse sweep off Tabraiz Shamsi (1/23), who became only the third South African to reach 50 T20I scalps.

At 81/5, the Aussies were making things unnecessarily tough as their batting demons from the series against Bangladesh seemingly manifested themselves again.

But the nuggety Matthew Wade struck two crucial boundaries off Rabada in the 17th over and Nortje's miscalculation of length in his final over allowed Marcus Stoinis (24*) to find the fence and bring down the equation to eight off the last over.

It was too small a number for Dwaine Pretorius to defend.       

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