Ahmedabad, Nov 10: Afghanistan were expected to do a miracle, beat South Africa with a massive margin and pursue their chances whatsoever for the semi-finals fourth spot.
It was for sure a herculean task, as New Zealand are already comfortably placed above Afghanistan in the Points Table, eyeing the last semi-finals slot.
On the contrary, South Africa have already entered the semis, and would play Australia for a position in the final.
However, electing to bat first, Afghanistan could score 244/10 in 50 overs against South Africa in the 42nd match of the ICC ODI Men's Cricket World Cup 2023, here on Fridayelecting to bat first, Afghanistan could score 244/10 in 50 overs against South Africa in the 42nd match of the ICC ODI Men's Cricket World Cup 2023, here on Friday.
Afghanistan middle order batter Azmatullah Omarzai perhaps played one of his life's best fighting innings scoring 97 not out. Had a few others gave him good company, Omarzai could have taken Afghanistan near or beyond the coveted 300-mark.
At the start, Rahmanullah Gurbaz was the first to fall bowled by Keshav Maharaj, caught at slip by Henrich Klassen, after scoring 25 in 22 balls. Afghanistan lost their first wicket at 41, in 8.1 overs.
Afghanistan batting main-stay Ibrahim Zadran, while trying for a big hit against right arm pacer Gerald Coetzee, ended up edging a catch to keeper Quinton de Kock.
Zadran (15 in 30 balls) departed soon after Gurbaz's exit, as his side got the second jolt at the same score (41/2) in 9.3 overs.
Afghanistan might have expected their skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi to stand tall and resist the South African attack.
But he failed to negotiate a comparatively straighter delivery from Keshav Maharaj and edged one to de Kock behind the stumps, who grabbed the opportunity gladly. In a span of 4 runs, Afghanistan lost three quick wickets, and were reduced to 45/3.
Rahmat Shah, was yet another Afghan batter to have got a start and not converted it to a bigger one.
Rahmat was removed by pacer Lungi Ngidi, as David Mller finally caught him at backward point, after a few fumbles. Rahmat made 26 in 46 balls.
Having tested success, young pacer Coetzee struck again, as he compelled Ikram Alikhil (12 in 14 balls) to edge one to keeper de Kock, who seemed to be having a good day behind the stumps. De Koch pouched six catches, as he missed nothing.
Next in queue was Mohd Nabi (2 in 3 runs), who was claimed by Ngidi, as de Kock grabbed yet another easy take behind the wickets. With Nabi's exit, Afghanistan were reeling at 116/6 in 27.4 overs.
The silver-line in the Afghan batting line-up was the fighting half century by Azmatullah Omarzai, who scored unbeaten 97 and saved Afghanistan from a paltry score.
Rashid Khan (14 in 30 balls) gave him good support. But Andile Phehlukwayo got Rashid caught by de Kock to break his resistance. But by then Rashid and Omarzai had shared a vital 44 runs 7th wicket partnership on a fine recovery cause.
Coetzee had his third scalp and de Kock held his 6th catch on the day, as Noor Ahmed's 26 in 32 balls fight ended and Afghanistan were in more problems with score-card reflecting 204/8 in 46 overs.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman trying to accelerate, departed scoring 8 runs in 5 balls. Coetzee got him caught by Aiden Markaram.
The last to be dismissed was Naveen-ul-Haq, who was run out by Kagiso Rabada in the final ball of the innings.
Spirited Gerald Coetzee with 4/44 was best African bowler on the day. Keshav Maharaj and Lungi Ngidi claimed two dismissals each, while Andile Phehlukwayo go one wicked.
African keeper Quinton de Kock, who is dazzling with the bat in his last World Cup of his illustrious career, had a glorious day with gloves as he grabbed six catches.