By Anand Vasu in Chittagong
Set target of 146, Netherlands falters after starting well to fall six runs short in tight finish
There were several heroes for The Netherlands, but the man who set things up was Ahsan Malik, the Rotterdam-born seamer who never once threatened the 135 kph mark and yet did just enough with the ball to claim 5 for 19 from his four overs.
South Africa got off to a brisk start thanks to an uncharacteristically belligerent innings from Hashim Amla, who has been under some fire for his conservative approach to batting in Twenty20 cricket. Amla got most of the strike in the PowerPlay overs after Quinton de Kock failed once, and he made the most of it.
Coming down the pitch, Amla lofted the spinners over cover, and whenever there was width on the ball he had no difficulty in finding the point fence. Amla was well on course to a maiden Twenty20 International half-century when he gave himself a touch of room against Malik, and threw his hands at the ball, failing to make clean contact, and had to leave the field for 43 off 22.
Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers then put together a nervous partnership, not committing fully to attack, and though they managed to add 39 runs for the third wicket, they did nothing to take control of the game.
Du Plessis (24) chipped a catch just when he needed to make his stay out in the middle count and de Villiers (21) followed soon after, picking out the fielder on the cover fence.
Albie Morkel walked out to bat ahead of JP Duminy and David Miller, and threw his wicket away before he could get going, becoming the latest in a procession of South Africa batsmen holing out.
Duminy steadied the ship, but was strangled down the leg side off the pace of Timm van der Gugten and at 120 for 6 in the 16th over, South Africa faced the real prospect of not lasting 20 overs.
Dale Steyn and Beuran Hendricks, brought into the eleven in place of Morne Morkel, did no real damage, and were both snapped up by the tidy Malik. When Miller (17) got one that wobbled just enough to beat the swinging blade, Malik had 5 for 19, the best figures by any Associate team bowler against a Full Member country.
If The Netherlands batsmen had any jitters following from their embarrassing 39 all out, it did not show.
Du Plessis’s decision to hold Dale Steyn back in the opening overs made it easier for Michael Swart and Myburgh, who had to face Albie Morkel, Hendricks and Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the first three overs. The ball came through at just the right pace, with no appreciable movement in the air or off the pitch, and Myburgh teed off.
Myburgh, who smashed 63 off only 23 in The Netherlands’ dramatic six-wicket win over Ireland, got to his half-century off only 25 balls, and even when he was dismissed one run later, he had done the damage, pushing the score to 80 with one ball still to be bowled in the eighth over.
Imran Tahir dragged South Africa back into the game, snapping up Wesley Barresi and Peter Borren in quick time. All of a sudden, at 97 for 4, The Netherlands was in serious danger of losing its way.
Steyn steamed in to bounce out Ben Cooper in the 13th over, and Tom Cooper (16) picked the wrong Tahir ball to pull, and had his stumps splayed. Tahir capped off a game-changing spell of 4 for 21 with the wicket of Peter Seelaar, pegging the Netherlands back to 118 for 7.
From there on, South Africa threw everything it had at the Dutch, even bowling Steyn out as early as the 17th over. With 14 needed from the final three overs, The Netherlands was still in the game and Mudassar Bukhari played the wrong shot, giving Tsotsobe the charge and trying to smash him into the stands via an awkward pull, but only managed to find the fielder at long-on.
Malik, who had done the job with the ball earlier on, was at the crease when van der Gugten slogged one towards midwicket and Steyn made great ground to get to the ball, and put in the dive, but could not hold onto the ball as he hit the ground. When Hendricks bounced van der Gugten, with 7 needed from 9 balls, an attempted steer over the keeper’s head failed, a thin edge being pouched to give South Africa a nervy win.