Sport

Five talking points: Pakistan vs. South Africa, fifth ODI

By Antoinette Muller 12 November 2013

South Africa finished their ODI series against Pakistan with a clinical win as they sealed the series 4-1. They were helped by yet another dire batting performance from Pakistan, but there was still plenty to talk about, especially after the Proteas rested three of their main players. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from the final ODI.

South Africa wrapped up their one-day series against Pakistan with a convincing win, beating Paksitan by 117 runs in their final ODI on Monday.

Contributions from Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers saw the visitors post 268 on the board after winning the toss and batting first. While there were still a few blips in the batting, the Proteas managed to bat out the innings for the third time this tournament after failing to do so on four consecutive occasions before.

Their “second string” bowlers did the rest, and Pakistan suffered yet another emphatic batting collapse – they haven’t batted out an innings in ODIs since March this year. That’s seven times on the trot they have failed to survive 50 overs.

Despite the relatively one-sided contest, there was still plenty to talk about. Here are five of the top points of discussion.

Has Mohammed Irfan made Hashim Amla his bunny?

Hashim Amla isn’t having the best year in one-day cricket – not in terms of his average, anyway. In the 17 games he has played in 2013, he averages just 32.37: the first time in his career that he has dipped below 40. But averages only tell half the story – he has scored one hundred and two fifties this year and was instrumental in a supporting role with Quinton de Kock in the fourth ODI. What’s more interesting than Amla’s averages is his duels with Mohammed Irfan. Amla was dismissed by Irfan for the fifth time in eight games on Monday. It’s not like Amla has a particular weakness against left-handers, but it is an intriguing contest. One of the great things about cricket is the subplots that unfold in every game, and with Irfan now being the only bowler to dismiss Amla more than twice in ODIs, it’s safe to say Irfan is winning the battle. Another interesting tidbit is that Amla has only been dismissed for a duck twice in his entire ODI career. Irfan, of course, is one of the bowlers to get him for naught. Doug Bollinger is the other. With another series against Pakistan looming, this time on home soil, the battle will be a must-watch.

Should South Africa have practised chasing?

South Africa haven’t won a game chasing since they beat India in the Champions Trophy earlier this year. They’ve lost the last four games they’ve chased in – clearly a weakness in their game. With the series wrapped up 3-1 and after winning the toss, deliberately choosing to chase might have been a good idea. Instead, South Africa played it safe and opted to bat. While some practice might have been good, the decision isn’t entirely bad. There are still weaknesses with the batting overall and there is no use in redecorating the bathroom when the living room is in tatters. It might have been the “safe” option, but a desire to win and focusing on your strengths, especially when youngsters are being blooded, makes sense too. South Africa obviously wanted to win to make sure they head into the T20 series with a little confidence boost, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

AB de Villiers is having a bad year – with an average of 46.77

AB de Villiers scored the perfect hundred against Pakistan. He started slowly, then picked up the pace and bashed everyone around a bit, making sure he kept rotating the strike and picking up the boundaries when they mattered. De Villiers’ running between the wickets is what makes him so strong – his dot ball percentage in ODIs is around 40 percent, the lowest for any player from a Test playing team. He became the fastest South African to 6,000 runs in the format and the second fastest overall a short while ago. Yet, by comparison to the previous four years, De Villiers is having a bad year. He averages 46.77 with two hundreds and five fifties this year in 21 games, the lowest he has averaged in the last five years, and the first time since 2008 that he has averaged below 50.00 in a year. He now has an average of 61.95 as a skipper, and if this is a “bad year” then it’s probably not the worst position to be in. De Villiers also seems to be slowly, but surely, growing into the role of captaincy, and he certainly seems a little bit more comfortable when he’s not behind the stumps. While Quinton de Kock still has a long way to go, De Villiers is very much one of South Africa’s MVPs.

There is strength in South Africa’s depth after all

With the series wrapped up, South Africa opted to rest Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir for the final game. In came Vernon Philander, Wayne Parnell and Robin Peterson. Philander was perhaps the most impressive. He has been dying for his chance to return to coloured clothing, but for some unknown reason, hasn’t been given a shot. Philander finished with two wickets for 23 runs, an economy rate of 2.87 – two fingers up at anyone who might have doubted his ability to make his line and length work for him in the shorter format. While all the “second stringers” were helped by some poor batting from Pakistan, they all looked impressive, and South Africa managed to get on top of the opposition even without having a bowler who doesn’t really pack any pace. For a team who, just a few months ago, were lamenting their options, South Africa have turned things around pretty quickly. New coach Russell Domingo deserves bags of credit for turning things around while Vincent Barnes, on tour in place of Allan Donald, deserves a tap on the shoulder for keeping the bowlers in check. It’s a long road ahead for the Proteas in order to ensure they have the right combination in ODIs as they start preparing for the 2015 World Cup, but at least there are signs of finally heading in the right direction. One big question remains, though: what happens when Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis return? Time will tell.

Sohaib Maqsood is the one bright batting spark for Pakistan

After scoring 56 on debut, Maqsood followed it up with 53 on Monday. For all Pakistan’s batting woes, he’s at least looked the most convincing. It will be a different story when he’s playing on more bouncy pitches on South Africa’s home turf, but for the time being, his 51.96 average in domestic cricket at least looks to be doing him justice on the international stage. He’s played some fine shots, and shows signs of having the right temperament to be the one positive in Pakistan’s batting department.

Result summary:

South Africa 268-7 (50 overs)

AB de Villiers 115* (102), Faf du Plessis 46 (89); Saeed Ajmal 10-0-35-3, Junaid Khan 9-0-57-2

Pakistan 151 all out (35.3 overs)

Sohaib Maqsood 53 (65), Umar Akmal 30 (38); Wayne Parnell 7-1-36-3, Vernon Philander 8-2-23-2

South Africa won by 117 runs. DM

Photo: South Africa’s AB de Villiers plays a shot bowled by Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz during their final one-day international (ODI) cricket match in Benoni March 24, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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