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first_imgShare on LinkedIn Their collapse against South Africa in Cardiff in between more showers on another grassy pitch was woeful by any standards. From the respectability of 69 for two they lost four wickets for one run in 10 deliveries. It was a minor miracle that they reached 125, having slumped to 77 for seven. South Africa knocked off their adjusted target – it was 127 (goodness knows how or why) – with nine wickets and almost 20 overs to spare.Thus they have now registered their first victory but much sterner tests await, starting with their match against New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday. They have to assume they cannot afford to lose another game. Meanwhile a battered Afghan team now head for Old Trafford, where they play England on Tuesday with their batsmen’s confidence in shreds.The veteran leg-spinner Imran Tahir was Afghanistan’s chief tormentor. He snatched two wickets in his first over. His first ball was a perfectly pitched googly, which bowled Noor Ali Zadran, and then he induced a straightforward return catch. The exuberant Tahir embarked on his sprinting celebration on each occasion – it makes little difference to him whether it is Virat Kohli or Asghar Afghan who has fallen to his wiles. Now Tahir’s teammates visibly relaxed.There had been a few nerves among the South Africans during the first 5.5 overs, during which Afghanistan had reached 33 without loss only to be interrupted by the first of two squally showers. In that time Hazratullah Zazai, the burly left-hander who has Chris Gayle as hero and mentor, had struck the odd exotic boundary as well as lofting one skier which found Chris Morris back-pedalling frantically and making a valiant but vain attempt to hold the catch. He ended up kneeing the ball to the boundary. If Afghanistan are the standard bearers for the old ICC associate cricketing nations, they are not advancing the cause so far in this World Cup. They have been unlucky. There may be a bit of turmoil behind the scenes in the running of their team; they have certainly been disrupted more than most by the vagaries of the English weather. But they keep getting thrashed.They have been pursued round the country by rain clouds. As a consequence they have played on damp, green surfaces; their matches have been annoyingly interrupted, an inconvenience to which more hardened pros are more readily accustomed. And they have developed a nasty habit of collapsing spectacularly. As a consequence they have scored nowhere near enough runs to give any scope for their two gifted spinners, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, to cause an upset. Read more Read more Share on Pinterest Cricket World Cup 2019 South Africa crush Afghanistan by nine wickets: Cricket World Cup – as it happened Topics match reports Kagiso Rabada and Beuran Hendricks, the left-armer who has replaced Dale Steyn in the squad, were lively without finding the perfect length; Hazratullah tested their patience while Noor Ali was minded to progress in a more orthodox manner. But after that first break for rain the South Africa attack was more purposeful. Hazratullah was soon caught on the boundary hooking a short ball from Rabada, Rahmat Shah was lbw to Morris so that, when the rain intervened again, Afghanistan were faltering on 69 for two.Then came the subsidence, which was triggered by Tahir, with Andile Phehlukwayo and then Morris offering eager support at the other end. Rashid naturally responded with aggression to the crisis with an array of exuberant swipes, some of which made contact with the ball. Thus he became the third and last Afghan batsman to reach double figures. In fact his frantic 35 was the highest score in the innings.As the skies cleared and the shadows lengthened the South Africans knocked off the runs without any alarms. A more confident side might have polished the Afghans off more quickly but neither Hashim Amla nor Quinton de Kock has been in prime form in this tournament. So biding their time in an attempt to recover their touch for more serious challenges ahead made some sense. Moreover the Afghan bowling attack is of much higher quality than their batting. Aside from the spinners, the veteran Hamid Hassan and Aftab Alam are combative and accurate.There were a few vintage strokes from Amla yet, despite 28 overs at the crease, he did not give the impression that everything is now in working order. De Kock discovered greater fluency in his innings of 68 from 72 balls. So this mismatch came to an end prematurely – before the lights were switched on – and it produced very little excitement for the crowd. The tournament needs some closer contests and there is every reason to expect that South Africa’s next match, a crucial one against New Zealand, will provide one. But on this evidence it is less likely that this will be the case when Afghanistan meet England, however deep the home side’s injury concerns. … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. 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