Despite having a vastly inexperienced one-day side, South Africa clinched a very convincing victory over Pakistan in the first of five one-day internationals on Sunday. Winning by 125 runs - even despite the bowling lacking some bite - will give them momentum into the rest of the series. By ANT SIMS.
Just one week after having their backsides handed to them in the T20 format, South Africa put up a much more convincing display against Pakistan in the first one-day international in Bloemfontein. They managed a 125-run win over the visitors, and while their performance was much better all-round, the bowling still lacked some bite. Even though they achieved the desired result – the dismantling of an opponent – it just wasn’t quite ferociously intimidating.
Put it this way: more settled and consistent sides certainly won’t be quaking in their boots when facing this batting line-up. If the sixth bowling option answer is Farhaan Behardien, one probably doesn’t want to know what the question is.
Back to the match, however. Pakistan won the toss and chose to field first, which looked like a good move when South Africa got off to a start akin to a snail over sandpaper as they pottered and poked their way through the first ten overs. Graeme Smith was the first to fall, with an atrocious reverse-paddle which went high up in the air and ended up being an easy catch for Kamran Akmal. The former skipper was sent on his way for 30 off 47. Hashim Amla followed him back to the pavilion shortly after, with the Bearded One chipping in with 43 off 43. While South Africa was hardly in trouble, they needed to get a shifty on if they were hoping for a competitive total against a deep-batting Pakistan team.
That shift came thanks to AB de Villiers and Colin Ingram, with the pair putting on a 120-run stand in just 20 overs. The two rotated the strike well while filling in the gaps with boundaries – ensuring the scoreboard kept on ticking over. Ingram was particularly impressive. For a player who has had his place in the side questioned time and time again, and for somebody who hasn’t ever really looked comfortable in international colours, Ingram played out of his skin. While De Villiers departed for 65 off 63, caught at short cover off Saeed Ajmal, Ingram continued his charge.
Faf du Plessis came and went, looking somewhat uncomfortable at the crease and meeting his end on one knee. Ingram stood unbeaten on 105 at the end of the innings, his strike rate just over 100, without having hit a single six. That kind of rotation of the strike is something which the South Africans lacked severely in the T20 format. It’s that kind of patience, and picking out the gaps for the quick runs, which helped them to a total of 315-4 in their 50 overs.
Pakistan started off well, much quicker than South Africa did, and their brisk start was helped by some poor bowling from both Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Kyle Abbott upfront. While the stalwarts in the batting line-up undoubtedly helped the rookies settle, the lack of senior bowler, and especially a senior quick, was particularly evident on Sunday. Dale Steyn missed out on selection as part of a sort of rotation policy, which allowed him to visit his girlfriend in the United States, while Morne Morkel is still out with injury. Tsotsobe should, then, naturally assume the leadership role, but he seemingly doesn’t have the cricketing nous to help guide his strike partners.
It was Rory Kleinveldt who got the breakthrough, and who ended up with the best figures of the match, claiming 4-22 in his 5.2 overs. While Kleinveldt hasn’t been brilliant in Test cricket, he has done well in the shorter formats, and has often assumed the leadership role for his domestic franchise. With Steyn likely to return for the next ODI, but Morkel still in doubt, Tsotsobe will at least have some sort of experience and guidance to help him ease into the match.
The South African bowlers did well to restrict Pakistan to 190 all out in just 36.3 overs, despite not looking up to the task at the start. While their efforts were much helped by some awful batting from Pakistan, they did well with somewhat limited resources. Not even a late blast from Shahid Afridi – which saw the all-rounder hammer three humungous sixes before being dismissed by Kleinveldt – could help the visitors.
Ryan McLaren, who claimed 3-19, was impressive in his use of the short ball. Robin Peterson struggled and was expensive, going wicketless in his eight over while conceding 47 runs, but the rest of the bowlers all pulled their weight.
South Africa eased home comfortably in the end, but the bowlers will have to do much better up front if they want to win the series. A clean sweep over Pakistan could see them rise to the top of the ICC rankings, which is just the kind of impetus they need before a major ICC trophy.
South Africa: 315-4 (50 overs)
AB de Villiers 65 (63), Colin Ingram 105* (104), Mohammed Hafeez 10-0-48-1, Saeed Ajmal 10-0-53-2
Pakistan: 190 all out (36.2)
Misbah-ul-Haq 38 (44), Shahid Afridi 34 (16), Rory Kleinveldt 5.2-2-22-4, Ryan McLaren 7-0-19-3
South Africa won by 125 runs DM
Photo: South Africa’s wicketkeeper AB de Villiers (R) attempts to run out Pakistan’s Younis Khan during their one-day international cricket match in Bloemfontein March 10, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." ~ Salvador Dalí