It was strange that South Africa made the choice of fielding first after winning the toss. All their victories in the CWC2015 have come, when they batted first and set targets. They lost to India, when Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat. But yesterday, de Villiers had been lucky with the coin toss and he probably had weather in his mind, disregarding the fact that his team was strong in setting targets rather than chasing them. Batting first, Pakistan’s batsmen began well but lost their way after taking the score past 150 in the 30th over. Despite losing wickets, Pakistan went past 200 and were comfortably placed at 212/5 in the 42nd over. But the unseemly collapse claimed 5 wickets for a mere 10 runs in the last 5 overs. The game was interrupted by strong showers and restricted to 47 overs. On the face of it, Pakistan looked like losing another match but Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz had other ideas. The result of the match was more important to Pakistan than the other way round and the Pakistani bowlers really tied the South Africans with a rope after setting a very ordinary target against a strong batting side. One cannot say South Africans threw their wickets because the bowlers earned every dismissal. The speedsters bowled with fire and Shahid Afridi’s guile worked as it usually does. The target was small but Pakistan’s determination made it enough. Towards the end, they had some anxious moments, when AB de Villiers looked like single-handedly stealing the game from them but the bowlers were not found wanting and the fielders supported them ably. It was the sort of performance that Pakistan had been expecting from Irfan, Riaz and Rahat Ali and the three left-arm quickies didn’t disappoint even if they faced one of the batting powerhouses of the ongoing World Cup. Genuine pace and the swing from Pakistan bowlers worked against a team that has the likes of Dale Steyn Kyle Abbott and Morne Morkel among it rank. Except de Villiers’ courageous 77 off 58 balls, there was no one else, who could stand against Misbah’s bowlers at Auckland on Saturday. In the end Pakistan bowled out South Africa for 202 and scored a 29-run victory as per the D/L method.
Put into bat, Pakistan began with a new opening batsman Sarfraz Ahmed. They left out Nasir Jamshed, who has been going through a bad patch. Sarfraz and Ahmed Shehzad began with a 30-run opening stand, before Shehzad succumbed to a mistimed chip that was brilliantly held by Dale Styen at deep midwicket. Sarfraz however, flourished in the company of Younis Khan and the two batsmen added 62 for the second wicket before Sarfraz was unfortunately run-out affected by a superb piece of fielding by David Miller, whose throw to de Kock was immaculate. Sarfraz made 49 off 49 balls with 5 fours and 3 sixes. Younis Khan carried on with skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and together they added another 40 runs in good time. Khan got out for 37off 44 balls even as Misbah carried on alone like he had done in most matches. Only Afridi contributed 22 later in the innings and once Afridi got out at the score of 212, he was followed by four more Pakistan batsmen as the innings came to end for 222 in 46.4 overs. Misbah finished as the top-scorer with an 86-ball 56.
When South Africa came on to chase, the target was revised to 232 in 47 overs. Even so it shouldn’t have bothered them. However the Auckland Saturday didn’t belong to them as Pakistan struck in the very first over. Quinton de Kock attempted to play an express delivery from Mohammad Irfan towards mid-on but the ball took the edge of his bat for the first of the six catches to Sarfraz Ahmed. However, South Africa were still unruffled as Hashim Amla and du Plessis added 67 runs for second wicket. It was here that the turnaround was engineered by Pakistan’s pace battery. Amla and du Plessis departed at the same score of 67. Rilee Rosouw and David Miller also got out after 10 runs were added. JP Duminy came to join de Villiers and took the score past 100 but Duminy fell at 102 in the 20th over to make it 102/6 for South Africa. Pakistan quickies were bowling with fire by this time. But de Villiers still carved out three useful partnerships; 36 wth Styen, 34 with Kyle Abbott and another 28 with Morne Morkel. But once de Villiers fell as the ninth wicket, Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel found it too much to reach the victory target. Pakistan won by 29 runs and they are literally in the quarterfinal with just a match remaining with Ireland.