Cricket: Proteas, the panic mechanics once again
- Antoinette Muller
- 28 Nov 2013 (South Africa)
Pakistan made history on Wednesday by winning their first ever one-day international series against South Africa. Despite a number of fine individual performances from the hosts, they stuttered towards the end and once again failed to chase a total. They have now lost eight games batting second in 2013, and won just twice chasing this year. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
Question: if one bowler takes six wickets, an opener scores 98, number three scores 47 and number five smashes 74 off 45, in a chase of 263, who do you expect to win? If you answered the team chasing, you'd be correct, unless of course you knew South Africa was playing.
The Proteas managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and lose by one run at St. George's Park on Wednesday. A master class in death bowling from Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal's wizardry, which baffled batsmen and created pockets of pressure, all conspired to see South Africa do what so many have come to expect them to do in one-day internationals: they choked, losing the second ODI by one run. Pakistan took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series with one match still to go.
South Africa won the toss and elected to field in a match reduced to 45 overs due to rain. Lonwabo Tsotsobe returned to the side in place of Morne Morkel, while Vernon Philander dropped out to make way for Ryan McLaren.
South Africa's bowling wasn't exactly outstanding. Despite constant efforts to create pockets of pressure, Ahmed Shezad scored a fine century, in itself freakish due to his conversion rate. Shezad has scored four hundreds and three fifties in one-day internationals. Rookie Sohaib Maqsood, with his 42 off 59, and Umar Akmal with 42 off 30, added to the entertainment as Pakistan put on 262 all out. Tsotsobe conceded 47 runs for no wickets while McLaren was equally expensive, with 71 for one.
A key for Pakistan was their ability to keep the run-rate above five from the 22nd over onwards. South Africa, once again, struggled in the dying overs of the game. Three of the last five overs ticked over into double-digits as Pakistan shouldered arms and popped pressure pockets like they were water blisters.
The Pakistan total might have been significantly higher if it weren’t for Dale Steyn, who picked up six wickets for 39 runs in nine overs. Just a few games ago, Steyn only had one five-for in all the one-day internationals he has played; now he has three. The South African pace ace has often been somewhat underrated as a one-day bowler, and not all of that is without justification. He has had periods where his average has been disappointing - it was close to 30 in 2009 and over 40 in 2010. He bounced back in 2011, though, and picked up 25 wickets in the year at an average of just 19.32, but was somewhat sluggish once again in 2012, with just 10 wickets in nine games at 32.10.
Steyn, though, is not one to take setbacks lying down, and 2013 has been his best year in the one day format to date. He has 21 wickets at an average of 18.38, including two five-fors.
It would seem the South African quick is blossoming in his prime. In Test cricket he excels and he’s head and shoulders above his contemporaries, but it’s his one-day game where he has been most improved. On Sunday, when skipper AB de Villiers was asked whether Steyn was at his peak, he simply said: “Well, he’s been at his peak for the last seven years.”
In the Test arena, Steyn has been an invaluable member of the side, but has been somewhat underrated in his one-day performances. Not all of that is without justification. He has gone through periods in the one-day format where he has not quite lived up to his menacing form in Test cricket. That is starting to change, but his efforts with the ball were for nothing on Wednesday.
For the most part, South Africa looked like they were in control. Amla and De Villiers combined for 110-runs for the fourth wicket, but Pakistan had mastered the art of creating better than the South Africans. With De Villiers looking in freakish form and needing just 44 off 42, it looked like the game had been swung in favour of the hosts. Purveyors of South Africa's struggles when it comes to chasing in limited overs will know that if there was one side who would be able to stuff it up, it'd be South Africa.
What followed in the next seven overs was almost not surprising. When it comes to one-day games, South Africa have not been good enough at dealing with high intensity situations, and that showed once again. De Villiers was the first to play an irresponsible shot and departed for a blistering 74 off 45, an absorbing innings which, at the time, looked like it could be match winning. He was followed by Amla, who in an attempt to hit six over square leg, was instead caught by a diving Mohammed Hafeez. The lining had started to unravel, although there was still the possibility that South Africa could suck it up and pull off a victory.
It wasn’t to be. Ajmal and Junaid performed out of their skins, and soon JP Duminy, who is yet to win a game for South Africa under pressure in limited overs, was also given his marching orders. The game slipped away from South Africa with eight needed off four, two new batsmen at the crease and Junaid churning out a textbook death bowling performance in the final over to wrap up a historic win.
For Pakistan, it’s a pat on the back after starting to string together some coherent performances in the last few games. For South Africa, it’s another black block in their column of chokes.
Pakistan 262 all out (45 overs)
Ahmed Shezad 102 (148), Umar Akmal 42 (30); Dale Steyn 9-0-39-6, Imran Tahir 8-0-33-1
South Africa 261-6
Hashim Amla 98 (131), AB de Villiers 74 (45); Junaid Khan 9-0-42-3, Shahid Afridi 9-0-38-2
Pakistan won by one run. DM
Photo: South Africa's JP Duminy plays a shot during the first One Day International cricket match against South Africa in Cape Town, November 24, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings