Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

‘I trusted my execution’: Nervous spinner Maharaj delivers for Proteas

Maharaj gave away only six runs and took two wickets in the final over.

He admitted he was shaking a little in advance, but Keshav Maharaj was relieved to deliver a superb final over on Monday night, wrapping up a nail-biting four-run victory for the Proteas in their T20 World Cup match against Bangladesh in New York.

Needing 11 runs off the last over, with five wickets in hand, Bangladesh were on the verge of clinching a stunning victory, but Maharaj managed to contain them at the death.

The experienced spinner gave away only six runs and grabbed a couple of scalps, with Proteas captain Aiden Markram taking two catches on the boundary, including a spectacular effort at long-on to remove dangerman Mohammad Mahmadullah from the penultimate ball of the innings.

Maharaj knew by the 16th over that he would deliver the last six balls, and he was on the edge of his seat while fielding, but by the time Markram gave him the ball, he was ready to go.

“I was actually more nervous in the penultimate over, going through the processes and plans, but I was quite calm and clear in the last over,” said Maharaj, who took 3/27 from his four overs.

“I trusted my execution and today it paid off for me.”

Change of venue

After playing their first three World Cup matches in New York, where they went unbeaten, the Proteas left for Saint Vincent yesterday where they were set to meet lowly-ranked Nepal in their last Group D match on Saturday.

While the unpredictable drop-in pitches at Nassau County Stadium had been widely criticised in the early stages of the tournament, Maharaj said the wicket had flattened out a bit, creating an even battle between batters and bowlers.

And though they were preparing to play on different pitches in the West Indies, he hoped for much of the same in terms of conditions, preventing batters from running away with matches and creating more excitement for spectators.

“In general, games are going down to the wire and I think it’s a brilliant advert for cricket,” Maharaj said.

“We’re so used to seeing batters scoring 200, and now it’s the bowler’s skill against the batter’s skill, so I think it’s good and it will continue.

“Obviously in the West Indies there will be slightly different conditions, and it might be a different challenge for the batters and bowlers, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Super 8 stage

The SA team had all but booked their place in the Super 8 stage of the tournament, but they still needed one or two results to go their way.

If Sri Lanka beat Nepal in the early hours of this morning, or if the Nepalese team lose to South Africa or Bangladesh in their remaining two group stage fixtures, the Proteas will be guaranteed a spot in the second round.