cricket:image:1437989 [1400x1862]
cricket:image:1437989 [1400x1862] (Credit: Getty Images)

Chelsea sign USMNT prospect Caleb Wiley 19

South Africa 113 for 6 (Klaasen 46, Miller 29, Tanzim 3-18, Taskin 2-19) beat Bangladesh 109 for 7 (Hridoy 37, Maharaj 3-27, Nortje 2-17, Rabada 2-19) by four runs

South Africa survived an almighty scare to to maintain a 100% win-record at the T20 World Cup 2024, and in New York, where they chose to bat first in their final fixture at Eisenhower Park. On a used wicket, Aiden Markram decided to put a total on the board, and it almost looked like a mistake. South Africa were 23 for 4, but a record 79-run fifth-wicket stand between Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller took them to 113, which they scrapped hard to defend.

Bangladesh's start was not ideal. They were 50 for 4 after ten overs, but Towhid Hridoy and Mahmudullah put on 44 for the fifth wicket and got them back on track. They almost also got them over the line and will look back on one incident which could have forced a Super Over. In the 17th over, Mahmudullah missed a flick off Ottneil Baartman, which hit his front pad and deflected to the boundary for what looked like four leg byes. But he was given out off that ball, which made it dead at the point of impact, and reviewed the decision. Ball-tracking showed Mahmudullah was not out, but because he had been given out, the four runs did not count, as outlined by the ICC's protocols on DRS (3.7.1) in the playing conditions for T20Is.

In the end. Bangladesh fell short by four runs. That, and their inability to capitalise on Keshav Maharaj bowling the final over for the first time in T20Is and sending down three full tosses, cost them the game.

Maharaj was tasked with the final over after Markram bowled the seamers out earlier. It seemed a miscalculation, but he got two wickets as Bangladesh sought to clear the boundary though neither Jaker Ali nor Mahmudullah could. Mahmudullah was out on the penultimate ball - off a full toss - to a well-timed running catch by Markram from long-on, which all but ended Bangladesh's hopes.

South Africa leave the USA with three wins from three matches, and will move to St. Vincent to play Nepal in their last group match. They are in pole position to qualify for the Super 8s. Bangladesh also head to the West Indies, and will play Netherlands and Nepal, with the Super 8s still in sight.

Top-three troubles

For all the talk about the power of their batting line-up, South Africa's top three have underperformed thus far, albeit on tough batting surfaces. Collectively, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks and Markram have scored 61 runs in nine trips to the crease at an average of 6.77. Of teams that have played at least two matches at the tournament, only Uganda and PNG average lower.

The biggest concern will be Hendricks, whose scores of 4, 3 and 0 are the lowest of the trio, and whose methods of dismissal appear to show a technical deficiency. Twice in two games, Hendricks has been stuck in his crease and then played down the wrong line. He'll be looking over his shoulder knowing fellow opener Ryan Rickelton is waiting on the bench, and could get an opportunity in the next match.

Things got even worse when Tristan Stubbs was dismissed for a duck in the fifth over. South Africa have only lost their first four wickets by end of the fifth over on five occasions in men's T20Is, and two of them came in this competition. Happily for them, they had Klaasen and Miller on hand to shore up the mid-section of the innings.

Three overs: 13 runs

After Tanzim Hasan (3 for 18) set the tone with wickets upfront, Taskin Ahmed took charge of the latter stages, helped by Rishad Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman. Between them, the trio gave away just 13 runs in the last three overs of South Africa's innings, and removed both danger batters Klaasen and Miller in a clutch display of death bowling. Klaasen was dismissed halfway through the 18th over, when he slogged across the line but was early on his shot, and the low bounce took the ball onto leg stump. Taskin only conceded three singles off the rest of that over to finish with 2 for 19 from his four overs.

It may have been a gamble to use legspinner Rishad for the penultimate over, especially when his previous three cost 28 runs, but he knocked Miller out with a topspinner second ball, and Maharaj could not get him away. Rishad's final over cost just four. Then came the Fizz, who took the ball away from Maharaj for four consecutive dots before a fifth went wide and was called as such. The batters scored three runs off the last two balls and were frustrated by their inability to score any boundaries in the last three overs.

Happy Birthday David Miller

On his 35th birthday, Miller was given a gift when he edged the first ball Mahmudullah bowled. But Litton Das, who was standing up to the stumps, was unable to react quickly enough to take the catch. Miller was on 13 at the time and went on to more than double his score and finish on 29. But that wasn't the end of the presents for him. He was stationed at extra cover when Maharaj was brought on to bowl the first over after the powerplay, and Litton, not content with what he had already given Miller, slapped the ball straight to him. Miller made no mistake, and Bangladesh were 29 for 2 in the seventh over.

Three overs: 15 runs

Bangladesh had to get 20 runs off the last 18 balls, and after putting on the squeeze in that period would have expected it to be difficult but perhaps not this difficult. Kagiso Rabada bowled the 18th over, despite not being his best at the tournament so far. He only half-appealed when Hridoy missed an attempted clip to the leg side but was rewarded with a wicket first up. Rabada went on to concede only one more run in an over of hard lengths.

Then Baartman stepped up for the 19th, and stuck to a slightly fuller length which neither Mahmudullah nor Jaker could get away. He conceded seven runs. The test was when Maharaj, who has never done this job before, was left with the final six balls. He started with a wide. His second legal ball was a low full toss that Mahmudullah hit hard down the ground, but the slow outfield stopped it from getting to the rope. Jaker tried to send the next one over the rope but couldn't clear long-on, and then Rishad managed a leg bye.

But the last two balls were both full tosses that should have been dispatched over the rope. However, Mahmdullah's effort found Markram, while Taskin could only hit the final ball to cover to give South Africa a nervy anti-choke win.