Opener Quinton de Kock scored 68 as South Africa eased to their first victory of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 with a nine-wicket humbling of Afghanistan at Sophia Garden, Cardiff on Saturday. South Africa captain Faf du Plessis won the toss and opted to bowl in their fifth group match.
Afghanistan's openers started well in Saturday's clash but, after the first of two rain delays, Hazratullah Zazai (22) tried to pull Kagiso Rabada (1-36) but only found a sliding Rassie van der Dussen at deep midwicket.
Rain continued to interrupt Afghanistan's efforts to build momentum and when Imran Tahir (4-29) removed Noor Ali Zadran (32) and Asghar Afghan (0) in the same over their hopes of building a defendable total were slim.
Andile Phehlukwayo (2-18) then bowled Mohammad Nabi (1) to leave Afghanistan's innings in tatters – having lost four wickets for a single run – and they were grateful for Rashid Khan's explosive 35 from 25 balls for leading them to a slightly more respectable score.
South Africa were set a revised target of 127 and their victory was never in doubt despite veteran opener Hashim Amla continuing to look scratchy for his 41 not out off, scored off 83 balls.
De Kock was more fluent, scoring at close to a run a ball until he fell to Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib (1-29), leaving Phehlukwayo – moved up the order to speed things along – to hit the winning runs with a thunderous six and give the Proteas renewed hope of qualification for the semi-finals.
INTERRUPTIONS COSTLY FOR AFGHANISTAN
Afghanistan's innings never got out of second gear but two spells of rain cost them any chance of settling against a much-improved Proteas attack.
That opener Noor Ali took 58 balls to amass his 32 demonstrated Afghanistan's struggles to alleviate the pressure and they did not clear the ropes at all despite Khan's lively cameo seeing them to three figures.
TAHIR COLLECTS CHEAP WICKETS
The oldest player in the tournament, Tahir recorded mediocre figures in his previous appearances at this World Cup, but the 40-year-old found the drop in quality provided by struggling Afghanistan useful for his leg-breaks.
A haul of four wickets doubles his tally at the 2019 tournament but, given the gulf in quality between the two sides, his typically exuberant celebrations, racing gleefully across the outfield, were perhaps needlessly over the top on this occasion.
AMLA STILL SEEKING FORM
Having scored only 25 runs across his three previous World Cup innings, Amla can be forgiven for taking his time at the crease in a chase that was at times painfully slow from South Africa.
But, although Amla successfully carried his bat, there were few signs to suggest the 36-year-old is coming into any sort of form and the Proteas will need more from one of their leading lights.