I well and truly know Pakistan’s reputation as a fiery bowling side that chokes on crucial moments while batting. I am confident in saying that outside of sub-continent conditions, I have rarely seen them grinding a win with their batting display. Whereas, Pakistan have won many crucial matches with their bowling prowess. They always run out of gas when it comes to showcasing their batting strength despite boasting some of the greatest batting talents they have produced.
South African Bowlers won the early battle
Pakistan's poor batting form that was evident during the recent Test Series was on full display when Pakistan came to bat first. The pitch was not producing even pace and the ball was not coming onto the bat with the pace the batsmen typically would have wanted. South African bowlers fully exploited the pitch condition.
Rabada was exceptional in getting rid of Imam-ul-haq and Babar Azam upfront. I have very high hopes from these two batsmen.They have played nice innings in the sub-continent but they have not been influential in giving Pakistan solid openings in this SA tour so far. Babar Azam has shown some glimpses of brilliance but has not shouldered the responsibility to carry the team on his own.
The ninth wicket partnership of 90 runs
Phehlukwayo bowled brilliantly and got rid of Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. They were the experienced batsmen on Pakistan side and their failure to steady the middle order proved costly for the team as they reduced to 112 for the loss of eight wickets. The brilliant Shamshi took the wickets of Shadab Khan, Hussain Talat and Ashraf. The game seemed to be over right there but Hasan Ali played a gem of a knock in partnership with the skipper to score 59 runs. The captain contributed 42 crucial runs under pressure. The ninth wicket partnership took Pakistan to a respectable total of 203 runs.
Confident Pakistan side
Total runs on the board was significantly a low target but South Africa should be kicking themselves in not wrapping up the visitors when they were at 112 with 8 wickets down. Although they bowled really nice for the large part of the game, not sealing the game early on exposed their lack of killer instinct with the fire power they have.
Having said that, it also showed how resilient was the Pakistan partnership that came on the right point in time. Pakistan must take some positive notes from their ninth wicket partnership in this game. Going into the second innings, Pakistan were slightly in a better frame of mind with the momentum gathered through that specific partnership.
Afridi was on fire, Shadab spun his magic
South Africa came to bat and they had to witness the wrath of young Shaheen Afridi. He took three wickets in his first spell to get rid of both the openers and the skipper. The game tilted heavily on Pakistan way with those three quick wickets and Pakistan were sniffing a victory. But, that was too early in the game as the Proteas found a saviour in the name of Van Der Dussen. Dussen was involved in a critical partnership with David Miller to steady the ship. The duo were batting superbly and Pakistan had no answer to that. At that point, the visiting skipper made a bowling change to introduce Shadab Khan.
The leg-spinner bowled beautifully and took the wicket of David Miller. He then bowled Klaasen on 0, and was on a hat-trick. Phehlukwayo survived the hat-trick ball. Shadab was excellent with his leg-spin. At 80 for 5, Pakistan may have thought the game was on. The target of 203 looked like a defendable total with two rookies in the middle and not much of batting strength left in the lineup.
Phehlukwayo had other ideas- crucial partnership with Der Dussen
But then, two youngsters batted beautifully. Phehlukwayo showed the crisp batting display and van der dussen showed how to patiently build the inning to be a perfect middle order batsman. They eventually took the game away from Pakistan and reached target unbeaten. Der Dussen finished the game with a boundary with 48 balls to spare and 5 wickets left.
In the end, they made it look so easy but the game was a thriller. South Africa at 80 for 5 was almost out of the game but Pak bowlers could not stretch the final thread. Two batters eventually saw through and made 127 runs together.
Man of the Match
Andile Phehlukwayo was adjudged man of the match for his unbeaten 69 runs and bowling display of 4 wickets with 2.24 economy.
The Proteas levelled the series 1-1. The third ODI will see Dale Steyn staging a comeback after a rest. Pakistan will have to improve their batting and hope their openers and middle order can sustain the South African bowling pressure.