Shane Watson shone with bat and ball for the fourth match in a row as Australia stepped closer to the World Twenty20 semi-finals with an eight-wicket win over South Africa yesterday.
Watson claimed 2-29 and then smashed 70 off 47 balls as Australia restricted the Proteas to 146-5 and then surpassed the total in the 18th over to record their second successive win in group two of the Super Eights.
Quick work: Australia’s Shane Watson steals a single against South Africa in Colombo yesterday. Pic/AFP
That result would also see former champions India exit from the competition, leaving Australia and Pakistan as the two semi-finalists from the group even before Tuesday's last round of matches.
Australia lost David Warner in the fourth over, bowled by Morne Morkel, before Watson and Mike Hussey added 99 in 64 balls for the second wicket.
Watson, who was adjudged man of the match for the fourth consecutive game, hit eight boundaries and two sixes before being caught in the deep off Robin Peterson.
Mike Hussey remained unbeaten on 45, while Cameron White made 21 not out, including the winning six off Johan Botha over the mid-wicket boundary.
“It’s nice to be able to continue playing well because I know how important my role is,” Watson said. “We are doing well but it’s still hell of a long way to go in the tournament.
“Facing (Dale) Steyn and (Morne) Morkel was going to be a very big challenge. I knew if we got through the first four overs, the momentum would be us for the rest of the innings.
“The top four batsmen are the ones who win you games consistently. Hussey took the pressure off me to score.”
South African captain AB de Villiers said he was frustrated by the result.
“We are very disappointed,” he said. “It is just so frustrating when we don’t click. I just can’t put my finger on one thing, because it went wrong everywhere. They did not allow us to get off to a flier and we lost quite a few wickets and that did not give us the momentum. Hopefully it is not all doom and gloom for us.”
Watson and left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty set up the emphatic win by sharing the five wickets after South Africa were sent in to bat at the Premadasa stadium. —