ENG vs SA: South Africa trumps England in thriller to remain unbeaten in T20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight

In a nail-biting T20 World Cup Super Eight match at the Daren Sammy ground in Gros Islet, St Lucia, England fell agonisingly short against South Africa, losing by seven runs.

Chasing 164, England was in deep trouble at 61 for four after 10 overs. However, Harry Brook and Liam Livingstone ignited hopes with a blistering assault, smashing 52 runs in three overs at one stage.

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The turning point came in the 17th over, when Ottniel Baartman bowled a series of full tosses, allowing Livingstone to hit three consecutive boundaries. But, with 25 needed from 18 balls, Kagiso Rabada dismissed Livingstone for 33 off 17 in an over that cost South Africa just four runs. Marco Jansen’s tight penultimate over followed, leaving England needing 14 off the final six balls.

Brook, having reached his first T20 World Cup fifty, aimed for an early boundary off Anrich Nortje, but Aiden Markram’s stunning catch – he ran back, leapt and held onto the ball – at mid-off dashed England’s hopes. The final deliveries yielded just six runs, sealing South Africa’s unbeaten run in this tournament.

Keshav Maharaj’s masterful two for 25 on a deceptively slow pitch set the tone. South Africa’s quicks quickly realised that variations in pace were essential. This strategy was complemented by exceptional fielding, highlighted by Reeza Hendricks’ stunning two-handed catch at cover to dismiss Phil Salt for 11 in Rabada’s opening over.

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England, not yet out, must now secure a big win against the USA and hope the Net Run Rate works in its favour if West Indies prevails in its remaining two matches. Meanwhile, South Africa has taken a giant stride towards sealing a semifinal berth.

Earlier, Buttler anticipated early swing and chose to bowl against South Africa on a fresh pitch with nearly equidistant square boundaries. Reece Topley and off-spinner Moeen Ali shared the new ball due to their favourable match-ups against Quinton de Kock. Topley had dismissed him four times in six T20s, while Moeen had removed him six times in 15. Topley managed to keep de Kock quiet from his end, but the left-hander targeted Moeen, hitting him for a six and a four. This was just a prelude to the carnage that followed.

Archer was brought into the attack in the fourth over, and De Kock attacked immediately. His first six came from a trademark swivel and flick over fine-leg. Archer then went fuller, only to see De Kock send another six over midwicket. Switching to a shorter length, Archer saw De Kock lift it over short-third for four. After a single, Hendricks joined in, smashing a pull shot for four as the openers took 21 off Archer’s first over.

Following this expensive over, Archer was replaced by Sam Curran, who conceded 12 runs, allowing South Africa to achieve its best PowerPlay score, at 63 for zero. While De Kock brought up a rapid half-century from just 22 balls, Hendricks seemed to be piling the pressure on his partner with a stodgy approach.

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Realizing de Kock thrives on pace, Buttler brought in the spinners as the field spread, regaining control for England.

Rashid nearly had De Kock on 58, but the third umpire ruled Mark Wood’s catch incomplete. The ball may have held up a bit in the strong breeze blowing from left to right across the ground, misleading Wood into thinking he was in the right position to take the catch.

However, England didn’t have to wait too long for a breakthrough, as Hendricks was caught off Moeen after a laborious 19 off 24. The slowdown through the middle consumed De Kock too for 65 as Buttler pulled off a one-handed stunner. Archer, back in the attack, opted for the cutters and slower balls as De Kock attempted an uppercut off one of those variations and was caught behind.

England’s spinners conceded 6.42 runs per over, while its seamers, who performed better with slower deliveries, gave away 8.84 runs per over.

With South Africa scoring at less than run-a-ball after the PowerPlay, Buttler produced another moment of brilliance when Wood bowled a wayward wide down the leg-side. The ball deflected off Buttler’s pads, prompting a misjudged call for a run from David Miller. The English skipper retrieved the ball quickly and caught Heinrich Klaasen short with a direct hit at the non-striker’s end.

Miller’s 43 off 28 balls provided the impetus, which proved to be just enough in the end.

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