Wednesday, July 17, 2024

SA20 League: Markram still ‘proud’ of his Proteas after T20 World Cup final defeat

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Photo Credit: BCCI

The Proteas claimed their best-ever finish at an ICC Men’s T20 World Cup on Saturday, but ultimately fell seven runs short of lifting their maiden World Cup trophy.

India were crowned T20 World Cup champions for the second time at the Kensington Oval in Barbados after having won the inaugural competition at the Wanderers all the way back in 2007.

The Proteas’ had never qualified for the final before with only previous two semi-final appearances in 2009 (Nottingham) and 2014 (Dhaka).

The Bridgetown final was the culmination of an excellent 2024 T20 World Cup campaign, which saw Aiden Markram’s team win all eight matches in the Group and Super Eight phases of the competition.

But unfortunately it was a hurdle too far with India’s experience of playing two major ICC tournament finals in the last 12 months coming to the fore.

Indian captain Rohit Sharma won the toss and elected to bat, and despite losing three wickets in the Powerplay, recovered to post 176/7 – the highest total in the history of T20 World Cup finals.

The innings was built around premier batter Virat Kohli’s 76 off 59 balls with incisive contributions from Axar Patel (47 off 31 balls) and Shivam Dube (27 off 16 balls) providing the firepower through the middle and at the death.

The best of the Proteas’ bowlers were Durban’s Super Giants’ captain Keshav Maharaj (2/23) and Pretoria Capitals’ express Anrich Nortje (2/26).

The Proteas also lost two early wickets during their run-chase with Jasprit Bumrah delivering the ball of the tournament to clean bowl Joburg Super Kings opener Reeza Hendricks before Proteas and Sunrisers Eastern Cape captain Aiden Markram chased a wide delivery from Arshdeep Singh to be caught behind.

A recovery was then formulated with experience and youth combining perfectly for the Proteas. Former DSG captain Quinton de Kock (39 off 31 balls) and SEC batter Tristan Stubbs (31 off 21 balls) put on 58 off 38 balls for the third wicket as the Proteas’ progressed to 70/2.

However, both batters fell within a short space of each other to stall the Proteas’ momentum.

This left the Proteas’ last two recognised batters at the crease in DSG’s Heinrich Klaasen and Paarl Royals’ David Miller.

Both are highly-regarded as two of the best ‘finishers’ in world cricket and set about hauling in the target.

Klaasen was at his most destructive best, smashing 24 runs off Axar Patel in the 15th over, to reduce the target to 30 off 30 balls.

In the following over Klaasen brought up the fastest century in T20 World Cup finals history, utilising just 23 balls to reach the landmark.

To counter the onslaught India’s skipper Sharma turned to medium-pacer Hardik Pandya. The plan worked immediately with Pandya’s golden arm having Klaasen (52 off 27 balls) caught behind first ball.

Bumrah, who was later named Player of the Tournament, was then called into the attack. The fast bowler showed all his experience and class by delivering a death-bowling masterclass, which included another peach of a delivery that clean bowled Marco Jansen, to swing the game back into India’s favour.

With Arshdeep Singh also holding up his end on the other side, it left the Proteas’ requiring 16 runs off Pandya’s final six balls.

Miller was on strike for the Proteas and belted the first delivery – a wide full toss – down to long-off.

But with the ball seemingly looking like it was going to go all the way for six, India found a hero in Suryakumar Yadav, who completed a miraculous catch on the boundary.

Yadav tip-toed around the rope when catching the ball before throwing it inside the field of play and then regathering to dismiss Miller.

This left the Proteas’ still needing 16 off five deliveries and although Kagiso Rabada edged his first ball for four down to third man, the mountain was ultimately too steep as Pandya (3/20) closed out the match.

Proteas captain Markram and the rest of his team were bitterly disappointed with the outcome, but praised his team’s resilience and competitive spirit in the final.

“Gutted for the time being, it’ll take some time to reflect on a really good campaign, hurts quite a bit but incredibly proud,”  Markram said.

“We bowled well, not a lot to work with, it was a chaseable total, batted well, came down to the wire, gutted not to get over the line.

“It’s not over until the last ball is over, we never got comfortable, things happen quickly at the back end, but got into a great position to prove we were worthy finalists.

“South Africans are competitive, respectful and will go down with a fight. It’s still a proud moment for us.”

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