Rabada and co shine at the death as gutsy Proteas level T20 series

Rabada and co shine at the death as gutsy Proteas level T20 series

South Africa's Lungi Ngidi bowls during the second T20 international cricket match between South Africa and Australia at St George's Park Cricket Ground in Port Elizabeth on February 23, 2020. (Photo by Michael Sheehan / AFP)

Sterling stuff from Mark Boucher’s troops as they show great steel in pegging back the Australians.

It turns out then that Mark Boucher’s teams are, in this early stage of his tenure, good at two things.

They have their coach’s famous fighting spirit – a hallmark of his storied international career as player – and, as became evident in Sunday’s brilliant 12-run win against Australia in the second T20 in Port Elizabeth, they can learn pretty quickly too.

The three-match series is now tied at 1-all going into Wednesday’s finale at Newlands.

Following Friday’s record-breaking mauling at the Wanderers, the South Africans looked a team transformed.

Most impressively, it was their much-criticised death bowling that proved their trump card.

There were little indications of that happening earlier as the potent trio of quicks in Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and the returning Anrich Nortje were once again guilty of not forming and executive clear plans in the powerplay.

They weren’t as bad as during Friday’s buffet of free runs at the Wanderers, yet 54 runs in the first six overs again felt a lot, particularly with only 159 to defend.

Much of that was down to the dynamic David Warner, whose unbeaten 67 was a fine effort on a bare, slow surface, though it must be said he became more bogged down as the chase faltered.

Nonetheless, the Aussie looked to be cruising at 124/2 in the 16th over before Alex Carey gave the home side a lifeline by missing a fairly innocuous Ngidi delivery.

In hindsight, that dismissal was actually an indication of the subtle pressure that the canny left-arm spin of Tabraiz Shamsi (0/17 in four) and medium pace of Dwaine Pretorius (1/29) has exerted in the middle of the innings.

Still, the Proteas required some inspiration and found it in veteran Faf du Plessis.

Having earlier done superbly to take a diving catch off the dangerous Steve Smith (29), he sprinted like a hare from long-on to grab a straight hit from Mitchell Marsh and parry it to another diver in David Miller, who spectacularly grabbed the rebound after Du Plessis went over the boundary.

It was sterling stuff.

Ngidi, who still hasn’t found his groove, came back well to claim 3/41 in his four overs, but the stars were Rabada (1/27) and Nortje (1/24).

The former delivered an outstanding penultimate over, conceding only three runs and taking the wicket of Matthew Wade.

17 runs from the final over seemed enough for Nortje, who only returned on Sunday from an extended break like his new-ball partner, to defend even in his rusty state.

But the lanky quick hardly seemed to struggle, bowling a good, full length to easily seal the deal.

Earlier, Quinton de Kock’s 47-ball 70 was a supreme effort in the conditions as he gave the South Africans a foothold against the vaunted Aussie attack.

He hit five fours and four sixes, though one could actually accuse him of losing momentum after his initial flurry.

The Australians also kept the rest of the batting order on a tight leash as they bowled well in the final overs too, though the Proteas at least got confirmation that Rassie van der Dussen is far more comfortable in the middle order after opening at the Wanderers.

His 37 off 26 was arguably just as valuable as his captain’s assault.

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