Proteas pick themselves off the floor with comfortable win
South Africa finally have a notch in the win column after a comprehensive 9 wicket demolition of Afghanistan, chasing down their target of 127 inside 29 overs.
After winning the toss and bowling first, Faf du Plesss watched his bowlers put in a complete performance.
Afghanistan’s openers Hazratullah Zazai (22) and Noor Ali Zadran (32) put on 39 together but the remaining nine wickets were worth just 69 runs.
Kagiso Rabada (1/36 from 8 overs) bagged the first wicket when he had Zazai caught at deep backward square and Chris Morris (3/13 from 6.1 overs) had Rahmat Shah lbw soon after but then showers halted play for forty minutes.
When the sides returned it was one-way traffic. Andile Phehluklwayo (2/18 from 8 overs) had Hashmatullah Shahidi caught at slip in the first over after the restart and then Imran Tahir (4/29 from 7 overs) bagged two - first beating Zadran through the gate with a googly, then taking a simple return catch off Asghar Afghan’s leading edge - to reduce the score to 70/5.
Things soon got worse for the men in blue as Mohammad Nabi chopped on from Phehlukwayo before Gulbadin Naib was well caught by Aiden Markram at short midwicket after pulling a Tahir long hop.
Morris came back into the attack and found the edge of Ikram Alikhil for Hashim Amla to grab at second slip and the score read 111/8.
With nothing to lose, Rashid Khan opened up and struck three fours before he holed out to Rassie van der Dussen at deep square leg to give Tahir his fourth for the afternoon. Morris finished things off to bowl Afghanistan out for a paltry 125 inside 35 overs.
The Proteas knew that a swift victory would help boost their net run rate but Afghanistan bowled well with the new ball, forcing Amla and Quinton de Kock to be watchful before earning the right to expand their strokeplay.
They were hardly fluent - Amla especially so - but were never troubled and eased to South Africa’s first hundred-run stand with de Kock registering his 23rd ODI fifty.
He would not carry his bat though as he picked out the catcher at midwicket off the bowling of Gulbadin Naib, departing the scene for a well played 68 off 72 balls.
Phehlukwayo walked in at three and hit 17 unbeaten runs, including a mighty six to win the match, to compliment Amla’s 41 not-out to canter home in the Cardiff sunshine.
Questions will be asked about the pedestrian nature of the Proteas innings, especially when net run-rate could prove to be decisive down the road, but du Plessis will be happy with this morale-boosting triumph.