South Africa escape Netherlands scare

South Africa survived more than just a scare as they narrowly beat rank outsiders the Netherlands by a mere six runs in Chittagong.

South Africa survived more than just a scare as they narrowly beat rank outsiders the Netherlands by a mere six runs in Chittagong.

Whether the Proteas took the game lightly or not is a moot point in a match that was expected to be very one-sided, but when they bowled out the opposition in a very tight run chase the relief was so massive that they celebrated as if they had just won a major tournament.

The Dutch lost by nine wickets in their previous match to Sri Lanka where they were bowled out for 39, the lowest score in T20 International history. The Netherlands are not complete duffers at cricket – they did beat England in the 2009 World T20 and their chasing 190 in 14 overs against Ireland to reach this stage of this tournament was highly impressive.

Yet they named an unchanged team to face the Proteas. Holland won the toss and restricted South Africa to 145/9 (20 ov.) as some clever slower bowling was effective against an attacking batting order.

Medium-pacer Ahsan Malik took 5/19 as South Africa lost wickets at regular intervals after Hashim Amla (43 off 22 balls) got his side off to a promising start as no other batsman converted a start into a useful contribution.

145 was probably below par on a surface that bore no demons but still the consensus was that the Dutch just wouldn't be able to stand up to Dale Steyn and co. However a South African batsman opening for Holland, Stephan Myburgh (51), had other ideas. Myburgh got off to a flier and raced to an extraordinary 25-ball half century, hitting boundaries at will and taking his side to 82/1 after eight overs and needing only five runs per over thenceforth.

JP Duminy (1/12) was the man to make the massive breakthrough as he bowled Myburgh, whose audacity stretched just one risky shot too far. Man of the Match Imran Tahir (4/21) then got into the mix and the Hollanders simply had no clue how to read his tricky googly bowling.

The match ebbed and flowed as both sides would have felt they were in front and the pressure mounted on the Netherlands as the job of taking them home was left to their tail. A run-out and some good catching the deep didn't help the cause and their plight was settled when Beuran Hendricks (1/16), awarded a cap in Morne Morkel's place, found the edge of number 10 van der Gugten's bat.

Many will feel South Africa's massive victory celebration was too joyous for a team that nearly floundered against the weakest side in the tournament but the relief was so great that it was just their instinctive reaction.

South Africa have scraped through two consecutive extremely narrow victories that in each instance, they looked sure to lose. The Proteas net run rate is only marginally positive after three extremely close matches and it is most likely that they will have to beat England on Saturday to book a place in the semis.

<b>Nick Sadleir in Chittagong</b>