With the series on the line at Durban, Pakistan put up their most efficient performance to take the five-match ODI series into the decider. The all-round effort by Pakistan in the fourth one-dayer was least surprisingly considering their ability to spring surprises out of nowhere. They had their chances in the previous game as well, but blew it away as usual. On Thursday though, they ensured that the series was very much alive with a showing that was better than South Africa in all aspects. Deservingly, Pakistan won the close encounter by three wickets.
The biggest turning point of the game came at the very start of the innings. South Africa had won the toss and elected to bat, but Pakistan’s tall fast bowlers outdid an in-form Proteas batting line up. Hashim Amla, who had hit a wonderful century in the previous game at Johannesburg, was cleaned up first ball by Mohammad Irfan. It was the beginning of the best for Pakistan. Irfan bowled an excellent spell, during which he sent back another form batsman, Colin Ingram with the very next ball. Two balls into the game, and two wickets down without a run on the board – few teams in world cricket can recover from that position.
In the past, Pakistan have displayed the affinity to let things slip away after having a strong grip on the game. Not this time. Irfan found wonderful support in Junaid Khan, who accounted for two other big names and that too cheaply. Khan sent back Graeme Smith for 12 and Farhaan Behardien for 1, to leave the hosts tottering at 38 for 4 in the 10th over. It was a wonderful spell of fast bowling by the Pakistanis, exemplified by the fact that the best of South African batsmen could not deal with the same in their own backyard.
To South Africa’s credit, they battled very well to recover to an extent, and give a sense of respectability to their score. AB de Villiers reiterated through his fighting half-century that the responsibility of leadershipis sitting perfectly on his head. He played a very mature hand one that is expected of the leader of a side under pressure. The normally aggressive de Villiers registered a strike rate of under 70, an indication of how much he held himself back for the team’s cause. Rookie David Miller also played an impressive hand with a half-century to give South Africa hope.
It is widely regarded that when Pakistan is the opponent you never give up irrespective of the hopelessness of the situation. After all, Pakistan are capable of finding unique ways of turning victorious situations into defeat. To their credit, nothing of that occurred at Durban. Yes, they did collapse towards the end, but the match result was all but certain by that stage. Pakistan only needed one good partnership to see them through and that came via the big one between Imran Farhat and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, after the top order was rattled. In the end, the early strikes by Pakistan’s seamers proved too costly as far as South Africa were concerned.
--By A Cricket Analyst