England fall short in T20 World Cup run chase as South Africa hold their nerve

<span>Ottniel Baartman celebrates the wicket of Moeen Ali as <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:South Africa;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">South Africa</a> made it six wins from six in the tournament.</span><span>Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images</span>

In a nail-biting match that threw up contenders for catch of the tournament it was Aiden Markram who topped the lot. Holding a superb running effort from over his shoulder off the first ball of the final over, South Africa’s captain had not only snuffed out Harry Brook’s defiant half-century but effectively sealed the win in that moment.

Brook had gone into the final instalment with 14 runs still needed to chase down a target of 164, his 37-ball 53 having hauled England to within touching distance on a surface much changed from the two previous night games. Instead, South Africa took control of this Super Eight group, with their sixth successive victory underlining their ability to prevail in tight matches and surely placing them among the title contenders.

Related: South Africa beat England by seven runs: T20 World Cup – live reaction

Not that England, one thumping win to the good, are out of the running. With West Indies and South Africa meeting in Antigua on Sunday night, Jos Buttler’s defending champions can still progress to the semi-finals provided they beat USA in Barbados earlier that day. Much like their group stage, it will come down to events elsewhere and net run-rate, the latter not damaged too badly by the eventual seven-run loss.

As such, Brook’s performance, plus a 17-ball 33 from Liam Livingstone in a 78-run stand for the fifth wicket, may yet prove critical in the final shake-up. Both men were fuming not to get over their side over line and book a semi-final spot early, having come together with 103 needed from 58 balls and even made England marginal favourites by cutting the target to 25 required off the final three overs.

But South Africa, hardened by nail-biters during the group stage, held their nerve best in the denouement, Livingstone falling to Kagiso Rabada when trying to hit into the wind and Markram’s athletic ­tumbling effort handing Anrich Nortje the ­telling wicket of Brook. Sam Curran, newly arrived, could hit only one boundary thereafter.

On another day Keshav Maharaj might have been player of the match for removing two dangerous hitters in Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. But even with David Miller’s 43 burnishing South Africa’s 163 for six, it ­simply had to be Quinton de Kock for his sublime 38-ball 65; the catalyst for a wicketless 63-run powerplay that Buttler cited at the key passage of play in the aftermath.

“De Kock came out with a lot of intensity and we couldn’t quite match that,” said Buttler, his own side’s first set of six having returned 41 for one. “The wicket slowed up and we brought it back really well, we were quite happy chasing 160 [164]. But yeah, South Africa bowled well in the powerplay and his innings was probably the difference.”

It had been a battle for all but a handful of players on this slow ­surface in the scorching daytime heat, something signposted when opener Reeza Hendricks laboured to 19 from 25 balls before holing out off Moeen Ali in the 10th over.

De Kock was at his impish best, however, a sense of creeping ­English dread descending early when he helped take Jofra Archer’s first over – the fourth of the innings – for 21 runs. An eye-watering blow to the box first up was followed by back-to-back sixes – one off the hip, one swung over deep mid-wicket – and a sumptuous uppercut four. He is some player.

Bringing up a 21-ball half-century, De Kock was also sharp enough to stand his ground on 58 after seemingly sending a top-edged sweep off Adil Rashid to Mark Wood on the rope. The ball held up in the wind, Wood struggled to adjust, and Joel Wilson, the third umpire, concluded his splayed fingers had failed to prevent the ball touching grass.

Instead, it was Archer who shut down De Kock’s buttery knock, exacting revenge for that earlier assault en route to figures of three for 40 with a 12th over that cost three runs but, more crucially, saw the uppercut fly into Buttler’s glove this time. Finding the edge with a smart cutter, Archer was still thankful to his captain’s full-stretch dive.

Buttler went on to surpass it with a superb pick-up-and-throw – admittedly set up by his initial fumble – that saw the potentially dangerous Heinrich Klaasen run out for eight at the far end. Delighted by a shy from some 30 yards on the turn, the typically restrained England captain celebrated like it was a last-minute winner at Wembley.

It certainly felt critical at the time, with Rashid’s subsequent removal of Markram in a typically tight four over spell followed by two fine diving catches from Brook and Curran to buff up Archer’s figures. While Miller held firm and cleared the rope twice, South Africa had only scored 100 for six from the last 14 overs of their innings.

But as England soon discovered when the in-form Phil Salt fell to an athletic diving effort from Hendricks at short cover in the second over of the reply, the struggle for runs was real.

And now their campaign of lurching fortunes is heading for a second successive Sunday evening spent glued to events on different island.