Afghanistan’s Cricket World Cup journey concludes with valiant effort

In a gripping showdown, Afghanistan bid adieu to the 2023 Cricket World Cup after a hard-fought battle against South Africa in their last group stage match.

Across eight matches, Afghanistan achieved an unprecedented feat, securing four wins—a notable accomplishment for the team in its World Cup history.

South Africa weathered a resilient challenge from Afghanistan, ultimately clinching victory by five wickets with 15 balls to spare in their final group stage encounter, solidifying their second-place standing.

With 14 points from nine games, South Africa stands two points ahead of Australia, who are slated to face Bangladesh on Saturday. Both South Africa and Australia have already secured spots in the semi-finals and are poised to face off in Kolkata on Thursday.

Opting to bat first in Friday’s match, Afghanistan struggled to forge partnerships as South Africa consistently picked up wickets. The Asian side concluded their innings at 244 in 50 overs, propelled by Azmatullah Omarzai’s formidable unbeaten knock of 97, embellished with seven boundaries and three sixes.

Despite Azmatullah’s valiant effort, he fell three runs short of a maiden ODI century, with Kagiso Rabada conceding just three runs in the final over. Gerald Coetzee emerged as the standout South African bowler, securing figures of 4-44, while Quinton De Kock garnered six catches, tying the record for the most wicketkeeping dismissals in a World Cup match.

In response, De Kock spearheaded the chase with a brisk 41, propelling him to the summit of the tournament’s scoring charts with 591 runs. Although South Africa found themselves in a precarious position at 182-5, Rassie van der Dussen’s unbeaten 76 and a pivotal 65-run partnership with Andile Phehlukwayo steered the Proteas to victory. Phehlukwayo sealed the triumph with a colossal six over deep mid-wicket in the 48th over.

Closing their best-ever World Cup campaign with four wins, Afghanistan also secured a coveted place in the Champions Trophy. Captain Hashmatullah Shahidi reflected on the tournament as a valuable learning experience, underscoring the team’s evolution from World Cup minnows to delivering surprise victories. “I’m proud of what our batsmen did in this tournament… It’s a positive thing looking to the future. Everyone knows we have a good spin department, but if we carry the momentum of what we did with the bat, we will be a very good side,” he stated.