Keshav keeps his cool as Proteas secure another tense win

10 June 2024 - 20:38
By Stuart Hess
Keshav Maharaj was the hero for the Proteas, successfully defending 11 runs in the final over against Bangladesh.
Image: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images Keshav Maharaj was the hero for the Proteas, successfully defending 11 runs in the final over against Bangladesh.

Another day, another tense finish and again the Proteas emerged victorious — though they will acknowledge that they got lucky. 

“It’s not so nice on the heart, but I’m just glad the boys got over the line,” said Heinrich Klaasen afterwards.

Keshav Maharaj, who had never bowled the final over in a T20 match before, was left to defend 11 in the 20th over on Monday and did so with a mixture of skill, fortune and support from a magnificent catch at long-on by captain Aiden Markram. 

Maharaj picked up two wickets, conceded just six runs and South Africa won by four runs defending 113 — the lowest total they’ve defended in a T20 International and in the process kept their unbeaten streak against Bangladesh in T20s intact. 

After starting that 20th over with a legside wide, Maharaj then had Jakar Ali caught at wide long-on by Markram.

Two balls later, the experienced Mahmudullah, who has won his fair share of matches for the Tigers from tight positions, smacked a full toss straight down the ground. But Markram, moving swiftly to his left, plucked the ball from the air, denying Bangladesh a six — which would have tied the scores — and more importantly ending the disconsolate Mahmudullah’s stay at the crease. 

“That could have gone a metre or two further away from me, but fortunately it worked out,” Markram said of his catch. 

It was a messy game, which South Africa made hard for themselves with another dismal performance with the bat. While the South Africans have enjoyed the sights, sounds and tastes of the Big Apple, the top-order batters will be delighted they have a flight out of there this week. 

Another calamitous start saw South Africa crash to 24/4 in the fifth over, a marginal improvement on the 12/4 they found themselves in against the Dutch on Saturday. 

This time SA batted first — a decision Markram, who won the toss, said was based on the pitch being used for the second consecutive day. India had managed just 119 on it against Pakistan on Sunday, which proved to be sufficient. 

SA’s final total really shouldn’t have been. “I thought we were about 10 runs short,” Klaasen said. 

Again the surface offered plenty of help to the seamers, with Tanzim Sakib taking three wickets in the power play, including Quinton de Kock who’d smashed a couple of sixes in a bright and breezy knock of 18. 

Both Markram and Reeza Hendricks received excellent deliveries, while Tristan Stubbs, one of the heroes of Saturday’s win over the Dutch, was deceived by a slower ball. 

Again David Miller was made to consolidate the innings, this time in partnership with Klaasen. The pair added 79 for the fifth wicket, taking advantage against the spinners, particularly when they bowled too full, with both Proteas batters hitting the ball strongly down the ground. 

Having looked on course for a total in the region of 130, Miller, who made 29, and Klaasen were dismissed within five balls of each other. 

South Africa scored just 11 runs off the last 16 balls of the innings, which looked like it would cost them the match. 

Anrich Nortjé kept SA in the game with the dismissals of the experienced Shakib Al-Hasan and Najmul Shanto, both with 146km/h bouncers.

Mahmudullah and Towhid Hridoy showed composure in adding 44 for the fifth wicket and looked to be guiding Bangladesh home until Hridoy, who made 37, was adjudged lbw. 

Then came Maharaj, who found the key to get the Proteas out of jail.

SA have won their first three group games, which was the main goal, but they’ve given themselves a few grey hairs in the process.