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Pakistan break South Africa jinx

Jamal Ahmad

Pak v SAF

March 7th 2015

 

Sarfraz Ahmad’s all round game was the key difference as Pakistan humbled South Africa in a World Cup encounter for the first time. Along with millions of fans, commentators around the world on all channels were perplexed on the consistent benching of Sarfraz. When he finally got his chance he made it count and count big he did.

Pakistan innings has been missing impetus and energy at the top and that’s what was provided by Shahzad and Sarfraz. The former fell to an amazing catch by Dale Steyn. It was a brilliant effort by the fast bowler to take a stunner over his shoulder while running back at mid on. Shahzad stood there stunned but all he could do was to walk back to the dressing room in disbelief.

Sarfraz played to the expectations of the fans and kept the scoring rate high from the start. His three stunning sixes in an over to JP Duminey raised even more questions on the team management’s lack of confidence in his abilities as an opener or as a batsman in general. He seemed a bit over eager to get to his half century and but run out one run short. He had played the innings, although not a huge one, that none of the other openers had managed so far in the tournament. At 92 for 2 in the 17th over, a total of around 275 was well within reach.

Enter Misbh ul Haq!

Misbah seems to have developed a knack of starting slow no matter what the conditions and accelerates towards the end. His approached did not change even with a good platform to lay a big score and his slow goings earned 18 runs off the next 7 overs. A runrate that had been hovering at around 6 an over came down to a mediocre a 4.5. If ever there was a need to maintain the momentum, this was it.

Younas Khan who was lucky to get a spot in the playing eleven due to Haris Shoail’s injury tried to do justice to his selection and was going well until Misbah slowed the pace and forced Younus to take some risks. His final tally of 37 could’ve been a lot more had he managed to go at a good pace set by Sarfraz. Selectors will be faced with a tough call once Haris recovers and is available for the next match.

Sohaib Masqood and Umar Akmal fell in quick succession trying to rebuild the pace as runs had dried up at Misbah’s end. Misbah went on to yet another half century scored a pedestrian rate of 65 run per 100 balls.

Afridi tried to play his gung ho game and hit couple of sixes; one each off Tahir and Steyn. He could easily have left the short ball alone after hitting a six off Steyn but then he is Afridi afterall and this is what he does. His dismissal triggered a slide as Pakistan fell from 212 for 5 to be dismissed for 222. Multiple rain interruptions meant that the game was reduced to 47 overs and South Africa’s eventual target was 232. This score was at least 30 to 40 runs short and Misbah must take some blame for the loss of momentum and for sucking the life out of the excellent start provided by the openers. There was a case of promoting Akmal or Maqsood ahead of himself to go with the momentum. Michael Clarke did the same promoting Maxwell ahead of himself in the match against Afghanistan and the end result was Australia racking was the highest World Cup total to date. If Pakistan is to post big totals, then their leader needs to play bit more aggressively.

South Africa has been racking up 400 plus scores with such aplomb that 232 looked like a meager total at least on paper.

Irfan has a happy knack of picking up openers early as de Kock would confirm. He is following a similar trend to Nasir Jamshed and can’t buy a run to save his life. Amla on the other end was dealing in boundaries and threatening to take the game away from Pakistan with a run rate touching 7 an over. Pakistan’s only chance of getting back into the game was to take wickets and they did exactly that. The three left armers kept asking questions outside the off stump. Rahat Ali got du Plessis’ to edge to the keeper while Wahab’s angled delivery went across Amla who ended up edging it for an excellent low catch to Sarfraz. It was his third catch. It was the kind of catch only a specialist keeper is capable and one wonders if the likes of Umar Akmal would’ve even managed to get a hand to it.

Wahab got Rossouw to top edge a pull shot to third man in the next over. His first two overs had been wicket maidens and he keeps on showing improvement from the start of this tournament. Rahat Ali was not to be kept quiet and he struck again in his fifth over to remove Miller.

South Africa had been reduced from 67 for 1 to 77 for 5. They had a period of six overs where only nine runs were scored. Pakistani fastmen showed yet again why they should be feared by the opposition no matter what the target. South Africa have a tendency to rely too much on Amla at the top and his early dismissal started the slide.

AB de Villiers had been at the other end watching his team slip from a position of comfort into total disarray. Along with JP Duminey he to tried to mount a counter attack and took the bowlers on. The pace of the game was not slowing down despite the wickets. Pakistan needed a change in the run of the mill approach and Misbah did exactly that by bringing Irfan back for a second stint. Fourth ball he got Duminey top edging a hook to leave the Proteas on a precarious 102 for 6 by the 20th over.

deVilliers decided to go for all out attack as it was only he who could mount a challenge and stood between Pakistan and victory. He took 17 runs off the next Wahab over who erred in length and was dispatched for two sixes though the typical swivel strokes that have become Villiers’ trademarks of late.

Steyn gave some company to his skipper but it was Irfan again who induced an edge giving Sarfraz his fourth catch of the day. AB carried on carting successive sixes off Afridi to reduce the requirement but it was one of the left armers again; Rahat this time who induced an edge off Abbot and Younas Khan took an excellent low catch in 2nd slip. A good knock goes a long way in restoring some of the confidence as an unsure Younas would’ve probably dropped that chance.

At 177 for 8 Misbah brought Sohail Khan back who paid his captain by dismissing deVillers who tried to go for one shot too many. The game was well and truly in the bag with Imran Tahir walking in at no. eleven.

Tahir didn’t last long and edged to Wahab giving Sarfraz his record sixth catch of the day. All the fast bowlers did their part and seem to be gelling into a unit just at the right time.

Pakistan team has turned things around after their humiliation by the West Indies. Finally, they have broken the jinx of not beating South Africa in a World Cup game. They need to carry the momentum forward, make the most of the good starts and turn them into challenging scores. Another must win game awaits in the form of the Irish who have beaten Pakistan in their only earlier World Cup meeting. Payback for that fateful 2007 encounter is very much on the cards.

 

 

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