Wellington, New Zealand: The only serious hiccup for AB de Villiers as he guided South Africa to a 146-run win over the United Arab Emirates to confirm a World Cup quarterfinal spot was being dismissed one run short of his 21st one-day international century.
The South Africa lineup appeared scratchy at times after being sent in to bat Thursday, but piled on late runs to post a total of 341 for six. It was always going to be too much against the bottom-place team. The UAE was dismissed for 195 in the 48th over in response, with Swapnil Patil scoring an undefeated 57.
The victory means South Africa finishes the group stage with eight points and likely in second place behind India in Pool B.
De Villiers once again subdued an opposition with his big hitting. His 99 came off 82 balls and included four sixes and six fours. Going for a drive to reach triple figures, he instead found an edge and was caught at third man in the 43rd over.
Farhaan Behardien steered the end of the innings with an unbeaten 64 from 31 balls, with South Africa adding 40 runs in the last two overs.
But the South Africa lineup seemed far less assured in the first half of its innings, and it will have plenty to improve as it prepares for the knockout stage. The Proteas have been inconsistent in their pool games, twice posting 400-plus totals, against the West Indies and Ireland, but also losing to India and Pakistan.
South Africa again lost an early wicket after Hashim Amla was out for 12 in the third over when he top-edged an attempted pull shot. Quinton de Kock's struggle for form continued as he made a scratchy 26 off 45 balls before being caught behind. Going into the match, the 22-year-old opener had scored just 27 runs in five World Cup innings, prompting speculation about his place in the starting lineup.
When UAE captain Mohammad Tauqir caught Rilee Rossouw off his own bowling for 43, South Africa was in some bother at 96 for three.
There could have been more damage — David Miller survived a run out chance, and de Villiers survived an lbw appeal when he was on 10 and then a dropped catch on 63.
The UAE faced an overwhelming target, needing to score at nearly seven runs an over against a world-class bowling attack. Shaiman Anwar scored 39, but when he was out in the 30th over the chase was effectively finished.
Swapnil Patil compiled a late half-century, scoring an undefeated 57 off 100 balls while the team came close to batting out its allotted overs.
Morne Morkel intimidated the UAE batsmen, twice hitting Khurram Khan with short deliveries and then getting him out caught behind. Morkel went for just 2.3 runs an over and picked up two wickets. Never far from the action, de Villiers also picked up two wickets for 15 runs off his three overs.