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De Villiers shines before India splutter in the dust

South Africa 130-5 India 118-8 (South Africa win by 12 runs)

The favourites South Africa maintained their unbeaten record and increased the likelihood of a mouth-watering World Twenty20 final against Sri Lanka after victory by 12 runs in a bowler-dominated match confirmed Graeme Smith's side as Group E winners.

India, whose defence of the title ended with their defeat by England, looked to have given themselves a chance of rewarding the undimmed enthusiasm of their supporters with a win when they restricted South Africa to 130 for 5 but, on a dusty, turning pitch that was unsuitable for the short form of the game, could manage only 118 for 8 in reply.

India's spinners had stifled South Africa's attacking instincts and seemed to expose their Achilles' heel, but India's batsmen found progress equally difficult as the off-spinner Johan Botha and left-armer Roelof van der Merve turned the screw, the pair conceding only 29 runs between them in eight overs while claiming four wickets.

But for 63 from A B de Villiers, South Africa could have left India with much less to chase, perhaps even suffered defeat by the kind of margin that might have sent them to a semi-final against Sri Lanka at The Oval on Friday, seemingly a tougher proposition, rather than stay in Nottingham to meet Pakistan tomorrow.

They were 44 for 1 after five overs, but as soon as India replaced seam with spin the scoring rate slowed dramatically. The next eight overs added only 36 to the total the final five only 32.

It was an untypical performance but, as India were to discover later and New Zealand had concluded earlier, these were conditions in which fast scoring was both difficult and hazardous, so much so that at times Graeme Smith may have been wondering whether Sri Lanka at The Oval might have been the preferable semi-final.

That pairing might have come about had India, whose coach Gary Kirsten blamed the Indian Premier League for their poor showing in this tournament ("We had a bunch of cricketers who were quite tired when they arrived," he said, "the standard of cricket and the quality of cricket has been higher than we experienced in the IPL") passed the target in 15.4 overs, cutting South Africa's net run rate by enough for them to slip into second place, but by that stage they were only 89 for 5.