West Indies nearly made a mess of a simple run chase but recovered in time to pull off a nervy three-wicket win over South Africa with two balls to spare, and romp into the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup here Friday.
In pursuit of an uncomplicated target of 123 on a slow pitch at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, West Indies were propelled by Man-of-the-Match Marlon Samuels who top-scored with a vital 43 from 44 deliveries while opener Johnson Charles stroked 32 from 35 balls.
The Caribbean side were on top of the game at 66 for two in the 12th over but lost five wickets for 47 runs in the space of 46 balls, to decline to 113 for seven in the penultimate over.
Starting the final over with nine required for victory, West Indies were left sweating when Carlos Brathwaite (10 not out) was kept scoreless by 20-year-old seamer Kagiso Rabada off the first ball.
However, Brathwaite cleared the ropes at wide long on with the second delivery before a wide and then a single, ensured the scores were level with three balls remaining.
Denesh Ramdin, batting at number nine, then steered the fourth delivery and his first to short third man where Hashim Amla dropped a sharp chance jumping high to his right, earning a single to take West Indies to their third straight win and keeping them unbeaten in the tournament.
They sit top of Group 1 on six points, two clear of second placed England who face Sri Lanka – fourth on two points – on Saturday. Sri Lanka are third on two points and an England victory will eliminate them.
Sent in earlier, South Africa were floundering at 47 for five in the ninth over before opener Quinton de Kock top-scored with 47 from 46 deliveries and David Wiese chipped in with 28 from 26 balls, to rescue the innings.
Chris Gayle was the unlikeliest of bowling heroes with his off-spin, claiming two for 17 from his three overs while seamers Dwayne Bravo (2-20) and Andre Russell (2-28) also chimed in with two wickets apiece.
West Indies struck a key blow off the third ball of the game when Amla (1) gambled on an ill-advised single with de Kock but failed to beat Russell’s throw from point to wicketkeeper Ramdin.
In the next over, captain Faf du Plessis chipped Russell to Sulieman Benn at mid off to fall for nine at 13 for two and when Rilee Roussouw scooped Gayle to Russell at point in the third over to perish without scoring, the Proteas were stumbling badly at 20 for three.
De Kock and de Villiers (10) offered temporary relief in a 26-run fourth wicket stand before Bravo got the breakthrough, bowling de Villiers with a slower ball in the eighth over at 46 for four.
When the dangerous David Miller played back, completely misjudged a Gayle delivery that spun and was bowled, South Africa were tottering in the ninth.
De Kock, who counted three fours and a six, rallied the innings by adding 50 for the sixth wicket with Wiese who benefitted from a mis-stumping on three off left-arm spinner Benn in the 11th over, to strike two fours.
The left-handed de Kock eventually perished when he made generous room for a heave through the leg-side and was bowled by Russell in the 16th over.
West Indies’ start was less then convincing especially after Gayle was bowled by Rabada for four with the fifth delivery off the innings off the second ball he faced.
Andre Fletcher struck a six in a run-a-ball 11 but was run out in the sixth over with the score on 34 when Charles bailed on a call for a quick single and left him stranded beyond the point of no return.
Samuels, who passed 1 000 runs in T20 Internationals during his innings, then anchored two key stands, adding 32 for the third wicket with Charles and 21 for the fourth wicket with Dwayne Bravo who made eight.
The right-handed Samuels counted six fours in a measured innings while Charles was never fluent though he struck two fours and a six.
With a mere six runs an over required for the win at the start of the 12th, Charles needlessly swiped and holed out in the deep off seamer Wiese and Bravo had enough time to also pass 1 000 T20I runs before driving left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso to Wiese at point in the 14th over at 87 for four.
Seemingly unaware that West Indies required 24 runs for victory at a run-a-ball at the start of the 17th over, Russell (4) belted leg-spinner Imran Tahir (2-13) into the lap of Miller in the deep. Next ball, captain Darren Sammy failed to pick a googly and was bowled, leaving the Caribbean side in bind at 100 for six.
However, Samuels then kept his nerve before Brathwaite and Ramdin sealed the win in the final over.
SOUTH AFRICA 122 for eight off 20 overs (Quinton de Kock 47, David Wiese 28; Chris Gayle 2-17, Dwayne Bravo 2-20, Andre Russell 2-28)
WEST INDIES 123 for seven off 19.4 overs (Marlon Samuels 44, Johnson Charles 32; Imran Tahir 2-13)
(Taken from CMC)