Wonderful Watson delivers again
Shane Watson maintained his remarkable World Twenty20 form as South Africa edged towards the exit door in a continuation of their major tournament woes.
Despite the competition not yet reaching the semi-final stage, Australia all-rounder Watson is the top contender to win its leading player award having now already amassed 234 runs and taken 10 wickets.
He once again came to the fore today as the Proteas - who were dominant in the initial group phase - did little to dispel the notion that they choke at the business end of these events.
After Australia skipper George Bailey won the toss, Xavier Doherty claimed 3-20 and Watson 2-29 as South Africa slipped to 86 for five.
Robin Peterson then rescued his side from those depths with a quite remarkable 19-ball 32, batting in a manner that put many of his top-order colleagues to shame and securing a total of 146 for five.
That seemingly had little impact on Watson, however, as the opener struck eight fours and two sixes in a 47-delivery 70 to help Australia secure a comfortable eight-wicket victory.
Mike Hussey also chipped in with 45 not out, meaning South Africa were left hoping India beat Pakistan later in the day in order to have any chance of remaining in the tournament.
Doherty immediately dented the Proteas’ hopes of putting up a commanding total; the left-arm spinner bowled Richard Levi before having Jacques Kallis caught behind.
Hashim Amla upped the ante with a glorious six over cover, only to glove the ever-impressive Watson behind having compiled 17.
JP Duminy threatened to lead the South African riposte, using his feet impressively to the spinners and hitting a couple of glorious boundaries off the seamers.
Yet his positive approach against the tweakers eventually proved detrimental; Doherty claimed his third wicket by luring the left-hander down the pitch - allowing Matthew Wade to complete the stumping.
The slow, dry nature of the surface was epitomised by AB de Villiers and Farhaan Behardien’s struggles to find timing.
The former struck no boundaries in making 21 - he eventually slapped Watson straight to extra-cover - while the latter fared only slightly better in a 27-ball 31 - the hallmark of the knock was mis-timed, ungainly strokes rather than attractive ones.
In the main, he played second fiddle to the sensational Peterson, who seemed to be batting on a different track.
From the moment he switch-hit Brad Hogg to the boundary second ball, the bowling all-rounder took complete control and added a further two fours before the final over.
Peterson then capped a brilliant cameo by finding the fence three more times; he swept, drove and ramped Mitchell Starc away, in the process taking South Africa to a total far beyond what had looked likely 15 minutes earlier.
Any thoughts the Proteas had of defending that score were quickly extinguished once Watson started to open his shoulders.
After watching Morne Morkel bowl his opening partner David Warner and having played himself in, Watson proceeded to display the exquisite form that had already brought him scores of 72, 41 not out and 51 in this tournament.
Driving with panache and capitalising on anything short, he once again showed the kind of brute power that is virtually unrivalled in the world game.
Peterson, often the Proteas’ leading bowler in this form, came in for particular stick as Watson scored freely on both sides of the wicket.
He would eventually fall to the left-arm spinner, holing out to long-on, yet the damage was already done.
Hussey typically performed his role as finisher to perfection - albeit with the help of a poor missed stumping from de Villiers - and Cameron White added some lusty blows in finishing on 21.