Pakistan continued their recent upturn in form with a stunning victory over South Africa, seizing a 29-run win at Eden Park.
After putting Pakistan into bat, the Proteas struggled to make many early inroads with the ball, as a string of decent partnerships pushed the 1992 winners towards a total of 222 in a rain-reduced 47 overs. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq led the way with a diligent 56.
|Pakistan Innings: 222 all out (46.4 overs)|
|Sarfraz Ahmed||run out (Miller)||49||62||49||5||3|
|Shehzad||c Steyn||b Abbott||18||34||30||4||0|
|Younus Khan||c Rossouw||b De Villiers||37||67||44||4||0|
|Misbah-ul-Haq||c M Morkel||b Steyn||56||117||86||4||0|
|Maqsood||c Rossouw||b Abbott||8||19||16||1||0|
|U Akmal||c De Villiers||b M Morkel||13||21||20||2||0|
|Shahid Afridi||c Duminy||b Steyn||22||20||15||1||2|
|Sohail Khan||c Duminy||b M Morkel||3||21||11||0||0|
|Rahat Ali||c Tahir||b Steyn||1||6||6||0||0|
|Extras||1nb 6w 0b 7lb||14|
|Total||222||all out (46.4 ovs)|
Chasing a revised target of 232 from 47 overs, South Africa toiled, losing big wickets due to a combination of loose shots and astute Pakistani bowling. Eventually they were bowled out for 202 despite a valiant effort from captain AB de Villiers, who made a magnificent 77 alongside various tail-enders.
|South Africa Innings: 202 all out (33.3 overs)|
|De Kock||c Sarfraz Ahmed||b Irfan||0||2||0||0|
|Amla||c Sarfraz Ahmed||b Riaz||38||48||27||9||0|
|du Plessis||c Sarfraz Ahmed||b Rahat Ali||27||42||29||3||1|
|Rossouw||c Sohail Khan||b Riaz||6||14||9||1||0|
|De Villiers||c Sarfraz Ahmed||b Sohail Khan||77||110||58||7||5|
|Miller||lbw||b Rahat Ali||0||15||13||0||0|
|Duminy||c Riaz||b Irfan||12||17||13||2||0|
|Steyn||c Sarfraz Ahmed||b Irfan||16||19||17||3||0|
|Abbott||c Younus Khan||b Rahat Ali||12||24||19||2||0|
|M Morkel||not out||6||25||8||1||0|
|Tahir||c Sarfraz Ahmed||b Riaz||0||6||6||0||0|
|Extras||0nb 7w 0b 1lb||8|
|Total||for 10 (33.3 ovs)||202|
The Pakistan batting effort never really caught fire due to the hemorrhaging of regular wickets, but Sarfraz Ahmed did his best to inject some tempo into proceedings from the off. The opener struck a run-a-ball 49, but once he fell in the 17th over, things were slow going for the batting side.
Once again that was in part down to the exploits of captain Misbah, who remains a divisive figure. He took 86 balls to accrue his 56 runs, a score that puts him near the top of the overall batting standings at this particular tournament, per Cricket Record:
But there are many who feel as though the captain’s ponderousness is harming his team’s chances of making a massive score, per cricket writer Mazher Arshad:
As aforementioned, a decent score from Younis Khan and a late blitz from Shahid Afridi helped push Pakistan past 200. Misbah eventually went in the 44th over, and when the tail was blown away by the South African bowling, a score of 222 looked to be well short of what’s needed against this stellar Proteas batting line-up.
A rain break late in the Pakistan innings meant South Africa had a revised total of 232 to chase from 47 overs, but they got off to the worst possible start when losing Quinton de Kock for a duck on just the second ball of the innings.
Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis constructed a 67-run partnership to put South Africa back on track, but after Rahat Ali struck to remove the latter, the Proteas would lose another three wickets for just 10 runs in what was a remarkable collapse; Amla, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller were the victims of the Pakistani offence.
There was some peculiar shot selections in amongst that carnage, but as noted by cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle, credit must go to the Pakistan bowling attack:
De Villiers remained at the crease, though, and with him in situ, South Africa would have felt they had a fair chance, even with six wickets down. A couple of early sixes signalled his intentions to move through the gears, but the dismissal of Dale Steyn left the Proteas seven down with 94 runs still needed for victory.
Kyle Abbott was next to accompany the skipper and he hung around for 19 balls before he was dismissed for 12. Now eight down, De Villiers decided to take the batting power play and went on the offensive.
As noted by cricket expert Paul Dennett, given the exemplary recent form of the Proteas captain, South Africa were still in with a great chance of victory:
De Villiers tucked into the Pakistan bowling during the power play, chipping away at the runs required. At this juncture, the boundaries were beginning to flow freely and Pakistan's work in the field became increasingly ragged. But eventually they got their man.
The South Africa captain charged down the pitch, looked to smash a short one from Sohail Khan back to Cape Town but feathered it behind to Sarfraz, sparking scenes of jubilation amongst the Pakistan players.
It was a fine 77 from 58 balls from De Villiers, but ultimately it wasn't to be enough for the Proteas, who lost their final wicket when Wahab Riaz had Imran Tahir caught behind.
After a decent day with the bat, Sarfaz had also taken six catches behind the stumps. As noted by ESPN cricinfo, that's a World Cup record:
This was a remarkable triumph for Pakistan. They were in disarray after losing their opening two matches of the tournament, but they're a notoriously inconsistent side and they raised their game massively in this encounter.
South Africa have now lost two matches at this competition, and aside from the perennially excellent De Villiers, their display left much to be desired here. It's vital they find some rhythm if they're to be considered genuine contenders for the title with the quarter-finals looming.