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Afghans brace for South Africa in T20 semi

TAROUBA, Trinidad, and Tobago (AFP) — Coach Jonathan Trott believes Afghanistan will go into their T20 World Cup semi-final against South Africa today boosted by “having no scarring, no history”, unlike the accident-prone Proteas.

Afghanistan will play for the first time in the last four of any World Cup.

South Africa still has no major global title, with just the 1998 Champions Trophy to show for all their endeavours. They have also been accused of “choking” on big occasions.

Losing to Australia in the 1999 World Cup semi-finals — after a farcical run-out and a blunder in reading the rain rules against Sri Lanka on home turf in 2003 — are famously among their catalogue of horrors.

“We go into the semi-final with no scarring or no history with regards to semi-finals. This is uncharted territory for us,” said Trott, the former Ashes-winning England batsman who was born and raised in South Africa.

“We’re just going to go out there and give it our all. There are no preconceived ideas on it all or history of failure or success in semi-finals in past years.

“For us, it’s a new challenge; and I think that makes us dangerous in the semi-finals as a side with nothing to lose and, obviously, a lot of pressure on the opposition.”

South Africa has defeated Afghanistan in their only two other T20 meetings — by 59 runs at Barbados in the 2010 T20 World Cup and 37 runs in Mumbai six years later.

The Proteas have won all seven matches they have played at this World Cup but have teetered on the edge of embarrassment more than once.

In the first round, they defeated the Netherlands by four wickets after being 12-4 at one stage, chasing just 104 to win.

A four-run win over Bangladesh followed before they avoided what would have been a seismic shock in a one-run victory over Nepal.

In the Super Eights, they squeezed past defending champions England by just seven runs.

Afghanistan were defeated by 47 runs at the hands of India in their second-round opener, before a stunning 21-run victory over Australia.

They sealed their place in the last four with a nail-biting, eight-run victory against Bangladesh on Monday. Trott said it felt “surreal” to have led Afghanistan into the semi-finals.

The 43-year-old has certainly developed close bonds with the team since taking over as coach in July 2022. After the rain-hit win over Bangladesh in Saint Vincent he was carried off on the players’ shoulders.

“When I took over I was astounded by the talent that I saw,” Trott said. “There was a certain rawness to it all and no real structure to how the game was played or thought about. “I’ve just tried to add here and there; at no stage have I tried to clip anybody’s wings. I’m just trying to make the bow of the arrow even stronger so that they can go for longer, win more games, and shoot for the stars even further away.”