Afghanistan managed to more than double their score after having been 116/6 at one stage versus South Africa in Ahmedabad at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023.
Azmatullah Omarzai's fighting 97* helped Afghanistan finish strongly after South Africa had dominated for the majority of the innings.
Gerald Coetzee (4/44) and Keshav Maharaj (2/25) shined for the Proteas.
Afghanistan openers backed the call of their skipper with yet another steady start. While there were a few close calls, including a tough chance that Keshav Maharaj spilled in the covers, Afghanistan ensured that the scoring rate was healthy.
But it was Maharaj who eventually brought the Proteas their first breakthrough. Off his very first ball, he induced a thin edge off the willow of Rahmanullah Gurbaz (25) which was snapped by Heinrich Klaasen at the first slip.
Off the very next over, Gerald Coetzee snared the previous match's centurion Ibrahim Zadran for 15. He got Ibrahim to nick one behind the wicket. From 41/0 at the end of eight overs, Afghanistan had lost two without scoring a run over the next twelve balls.
Wickets continued to tumble as Maharaj struck in his second over as well, this time taking care of Hashmatullah Shahidi. The batter edging to Quinton de Kock, and soon Afghanistan were three down for not too many.
Afghanistan No. 3 Rahmat Shah and all-rounder Azmatullah Omarzai then joined hands to stabilise the innings. Only two boundaries were hit in the 11-20 over mark, but Afghanistan proceeded without any further losses.
Just when the duo was picking pace, Rahmat fell to a brilliant catch at backward point by David Miller. He hit straight to the fielder, and Miller couldn't quite get to the ball initially. The fielder juggled and struggled with the ball, before eventually holding on.
Rahmat’s wicket brought the Proteas back into the game, and the pacers ran through the Afghanistan middle-order. Ikram Alikhil tried to lift the scoring pace with his attacking intent, but was soon sent back after he nicked one off Coetzee.
In the very next over, Lungi Ngidi picked his second breakthrough, getting Mohammad Nabi to edge one behind the wicket.
Azmatullah then took charge and helped Afghanistan move ahead. He reached a patient half-century in the 37th over. From 116/6, he added 44 runs for the seventh wicket with Rashid Khan (14). And after Rashid fell, he continued fighting with the positive Noor Ahmad (26).
With the Afghanistan tail, Azmatullah added 71 runs in the final powerplay, even as the South Africa bowlers erred in their lines and lengths.
Hashmatullah Shahidi called it right at the toss and elected to bat first. His reasoning centered around the belief that the wicket would probably turn later in the day.
On the other hand, Temba Bavuma believed that the pitch might skid under the lights.
Afghanistan were unchanged, whereas South Africa brought in Gerald Coetzee and Andile Phelukwayo even as Tabraiz Shamsi and Marco Jansen were rested.
Hashmatullah Shahidi's side could match New Zealand's five wins at the tournament with a victory over South Africa, but would also need to triumph by 438 runs or more to overtake the Black Caps' net run rate and snatch a semi-final berth.
Despite having a tough chance of making it to the semi-finals, Afghanistan would hope to finish on a winning note while South Africa have their own motivations in this encounter as they look to fine-tune for the knockout stages.
South Africa impressed when locking in their own semi-final spot with multiple group stage matches still to play, but fell well short of matching hosts India in a top-of-the table clash where numerous frailties were exposed.
Temba Bavuma's side will now be out to use this match as an opportunity to bounce back to their best all with an eye on the semi-final showdown with Australia that is already assured.