South Africa completely dominated the first ODI against Pakistan at Bloemfontein en route to one of their easiest wins. The visitors never showed any kind of application with either the bat or ball, and as a result lost the clash without putting up a fight. It was a kind of performance that has become symptomatic of Pakistan’s unpredictability over the decades. As for South Africa, they recovered well after losing their way slightly in the early part of their innings while batting first. Once they got on top however they never allowed Pakistan to make a comeback.
After the Proteas got off to a competent start, Pakistan did credibly to fight back courtesy their spinners. The ever dependable Saeed Ajmal got rid of opposition skipper Graeme Smith for 30 while the underrated Mohammad Hafeez got the better of Hashim Alma for 43. At 83 for 2, the game was evenly balanced, but this where South Africa pulled away as the Pakistan bowlers could not maintain a stranglehold on the batsmen. AB de Villiers combined very nicely in a partnership with Colin Ingram, and by the time their alliance came to an end, the hosts were well on top.
While the experienced de Villiers was fluent in his 65 that came off 63 balls, with the aid of four boundaries and some very good running between the wickets, it was Colin Ingram who stole the show. The South African number four batsman occupied the crease for 137 minutes and remained unbeaten on a maturely built 105, an innings which featured 10 fours. Ingram held one end up till the very end, and anchored the innings in the perfect manner. Thanks to Ingram’s knock, Faf du Plessis and Farhaan Behardien went after the bowling without any second thoughts and got some quick runs for their side.
Pakistan’s bowling effort was disappointing in all aspects. They had a chance to restrict the scoring after picking up a couple of wickets in quick succession, but failed to do the same. After that, they never looked like troubling the South African batsmen in any manner. Junaid Khan, who did so well in India, was easily dealt with even as the experienced Umar Gul continued to frustrate. Hafeez and Ajmal were restrictive at best, but Shahid Afridi’s below par performance did not help their cause. Shoaib Malik also went for plenty in the few overs he bowled.
With the bat, Pakistan were even more disappointing. Openers Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez both got starts, but could not carry on. Jamshed played a poor shot to be caught in the slips while Hafeez was unlucky to have been caught short at the non-striker’s end off a bowler’s back drive by Younis Khan. The latter himself did not help the team’s cause by falling for 30. Some others got their eye in as well, Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi were among them. For South Africa, Rory Kleinveldt and Ryan McLaren bowled with fire to grab seven wickets, as South Africa romped home to an easy win.
--By A Cricket Analyst