After withstanding a ferocious early onslaught from Bangladesh, South Africa eased to a comfortable seven-wicket victory in the final league match of the ICC World Twenty20. Needing just 145 for victory, Graeme Smith and Albie Morkel made 41 apiece after JP Duminy had set the tone with an aggressive 36. A huge six from Justin Kemp finished it with seven balls to spare, but not before Bangladesh had given more glimpses of just what a dangerous side they are in this format.
Smith and Duminy started fairly sedately, knowing that no great heroics were needed to keep up with the asking rate. Smith charged Mashrafe Mortaza and struck two splendid shots down the ground, while Duminy concentrated on the gaps in the leg-side field. He played the pull with immense power, while a paddle for four off Syed Rasel showed that he could finesse the ball as well.
Predictably, Mohammad Ashraful turned to spin as soon as the fielding restrictions were lifted, and Abdur Razzaq immediately had a very good appeal against Smith turned down. Ashraful's own legspin wasn't as effective, and it was Razzaq that delivered the breakthrough, trapping Duminy in front after being clubbed to long-on for a six.
Bangladesh couldn't build on that though, as Morkel, promoted to No.3, smashed the first ball he faced straight back down the ground. Through the course of his innings, Morkel revealed just why he's such a feared Twenty20 hitter, clearing the midwicket fielder and the rope with ridiculous ease. One massive loft off Shakib Al Hasan travelled nearly 100 metres into the stands.
The target was within reach, when Smith - who had bludgeoned and nudged in typical fashion for his runs - went for a slog-sweep against Shakib. The ball looped off the top edge and Mushfiqur Rahim took a great catch running towards square leg. A similarly unnecessary shot from Morkel, thumping Razzaq to Farhad Reza at deep cover, gave Bangladesh a glimmer of hope, but AB de Villiers and Kemp shut the door with a couple of big heaves.
Bangladesh had started like a runaway train, scoring their first 38 runs in boundaries, but then careered off track. Aftab Ahmed smashed a thrilling 36 from just 14 balls, but the overly gung-ho attitude cost them dearly as wickets fell regularly. South Africa's new-ball pairing of Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini came in for a real pasting early on and it was left to the likes of Mornè Morkel, Johan van der Wath and Vernon Philander to rein in the rampant batsmen.
The tone was set in Pollock's very first over with Tamim Iqbal crashing the first ball through the covers for four. An audacious loft over midwicket followed, as Bangladesh appeared intent on showing that they had no respect for lofty reputations.
At the other end, Ntini trapped Nazimuddin first ball, but was then stunned as Aftab nonchalantly thumped sixes over midwicket and mid-off. A flick for four ended the over, but right after, Bangladesh were two down as Tamim's charge at Pollock found Smith at mid-off.
Ashraful, the architect of that famous World Cup win over South Africa in Guyana, came to the crease and promptly clouted Pollock over square leg for six, before moving across his stumps and flipping him down to fine leg for four. There wasn't to be any luck the third time though, as a miscued loft straight down the ground was taken by Smith running across from mid-on.
The fall of wickets had no effect whatsoever on Aftab though, with Ntini pulled, flicked and driven for fours. In desperation, Smith turned to Mornè Morkel, only to see Aftab play a coruscating drive through cover for four. That was as good as it got though. The next delivery was a beauty, timed at 146.9 km/hr and it took Aftab's off stump on a long journey.
Shakib played some lovely strokes behind point, but then paid the price for misjudging a single, caught inches short by Duminy's brilliant pick-up and throw from mid-off. Consolidation was the need of the hour then, but you wouldn't have thought it from the way Mortaza took massive swipes at the first four balls he faced.
The fifth and six he faced, both off Philander, were clubbed for big sixes, but another almighty heave was then brilliantly taken on the run by Duminy at deep cover. Alok Kapali struggled to eke out 14 from 35 ball before another wild heave spelt his end, and it was left to Reza to slam straight sixes off Pollock and Philander before a miscue was taken by Kemp in the deep.
That left South Africa the sort of middling target that could have proved tricky to chase under lights, but with the Guyana humiliation no doubt fresh in their minds, they made few mistakes. England are up next on Sunday, and a repeat of the rugby result will go down a treat for what will undoubtedly be a capacity crowd.