Markram’s mix n match tactics spins SA into World Cup semis

South Africa’s captain Aiden Markram has led the Proteas to the semi-finals of the ICC T20 World Cup. | AFP

South Africa’s captain Aiden Markram has led the Proteas to the semi-finals of the ICC T20 World Cup. | AFP

Published Jun 25, 2024


Zaahier Adams

The Proteas’ Achilles heel at major ICC tournaments has long been their inflexibility.

Their inability to adapt to different situations, conditions and a multitude of teams has regularly proved to be their undoing. But here, at this ICC T20 Men’s T20 World Cup in the US and Caribbean, under the leadership of captain Aiden Markram and coach Rob Walter, this group are laying that all to rest.

Markram, who has the experience of leading the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to back-to-back SA20 titles, produced a tactical masterclass against the co-hosts West Indies in the final Super Eight clash that ensured the Proteas’ progression to the T20 World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2014.

South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi was the Player of the Match against the West Indies. | AFP

Markram’s rotation of his bowling line-up and identification of match-ups were integral to the Proteas restricting the Windies to 135/8.

It all started with Markram’s inspired decision to share the new ball with Marco Jansen himself. His tactical awareness was rewarded when he had the dangerous left-hander Nicholas Pooran caught in his first over.

Markram was also astute enough to realise the Antigua surface favoured the slower bowlers as he bowled his full complement of four overs on the trot up front to finish with figures of 1/28.

The skipper also backed his fellow spinners Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi for full 12 overs of spin as he held back pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada until the 18th over.

It was an unprecedented call as Rabada had not bowled later than the fifth over in his entire career.

Shamsi, in particular, repaid the skipper’s faith with a match-winning haul of 3/28, while Maharaj claimed the big wicket of Windies skipper Rovman Powell with a beautifully flighted delivery.

“We bowled really well, assessed conditions and kept them to a sub-par total,” Markram said.

“We picked Shamsi to have a mystery spinner against them and immediately saw it spinning in the PowerPlay, so we wanted to bowl as much spin as we can.

“If it wouldn’t spin that much then we would have used our pacers, not a lot of times when KG bowls only two overs.”

The Proteas are also debunking the myth that they crumble under pressure as they once again edged home off the first ball of the last over when Marco Jansen despatched Obed McCoy for six over long-on to haul in the rain revised target of 123 with just three wickets remaining.

It was the Proteas’ third last-over finish of this tournament.

Markram was, though, not comfortable with the way the Proteas went about their run-chase, especially the way they approached it following the rain break that saw three overs taken off their innings.

“Lot of relief to get through to the semi-final. We would have liked to be a lot more convincing. The wicket was playing nicely after the rain break but we tried to kill the game too early. It put us in a tricky position, but happy to get over the line,” Markram said.

“We could have built a partnership after the break and then take it from there; we will take that learning and hopefully not do that same mistake again.

“We have been doing really well, the bowling unit is firing and as a batting unit it is about when to take the game on. We need to be smart in those situations.”

The Proteas progress to the semi-finals as winners of Group 1 along with defending champions England, but await the outcome of Group 2 where India, Australia and Afghanistan are locked in a three-way tie.

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