Sarfraz, pacers stun South Africa in World Cup match

Pakistan revives World Cup Campaign with 29-run win

A hostile trio of Pakistan left-arm fast bowlers took full advantage of a pitch freshened by rain to hand pre-tournament favourites South Africa their second defeat in the cricket World Cup at Eden Park today.

Man-of-the-match Sarfraz Ahmed equalled the world record for catches by a wicketkeeper in a one-day international with six dismissals, taking his final catch as rain swept across the ground.

Set 232 to win off 47 overs on the Duckworth-Lewis method after Pakistan had scored 222 from 46.4 overs in an innings twice interrupted by rain, South Africa were dismissed for 202 from 33.3 overs after a thrilling counter-attack from AB de Villiers.

The South Africa captain kept them waiting with an exhilarating 77 off 58 balls, featuring seven fours and five sixes, but when he became Sarfraz Ahmed’s fifth catch behind the stumps in the 33rd over, the mood was undeniably Pakistan’s. Sarfraz became the first Pakistan wicketkeeper to take six catches in an ODI soon after, and South Africa were left stunned.

The first half of this rain-hit match lacked oomph, but boy did it have it in dollops under lights. Quinton de Kock’s awful tournament continued when he nicked the second ball of the chase to Sarfraz, and then Faf du Plessis knocked off all three stumps at the non-striker’s end when he dived back in, but South African nerves were eased by four boundaries off the Amla’s bat in six balls, still of body and graceful of hand. The tournament’s leading run-scorer collected his first 32 runs all in fours, off 20 balls faced, raising the team fifty in seven overs. At the other end, du Plessis hooked Rahat Ali for six and four in the same over. South Africa were up and running.

And then, the dramatic happened. From 67 for 1, South Africa crashed to 77 for 5. Du Plessis was hurried by lift from Rahat and nicked to Sarfraz for 27; Amla, on 38 from 27, was troubled by Wahab Riaz’s bounce and gave a third offering to Sarfraz. Rilee Roussow hooked Wahab to fine leg; and David Miller, scoreless from 13 balls, was given lbw to Rahat. Pakistan had burst to life, and how.

Ali, Irfan and Riaz among the wickets as South Africa are bowled out for 202 in 33.3 overs.
Ali, Irfan and Riaz among the wickets as South Africa are bowled out for 202 in 33.3 overs.

The introduction of Wahab had sparked the collapse, his left-arm pace and awkward bounce setting jitters in the South African chase. Suddenly there were more short balls, extra yards of pace. Claps from the fielders, huge cheers from the Pakistan supporters in the stands. The mood had shifted tremendously. Next to go was JP Duminy, top-edging a short ball from Irfan to deep fine leg where Wahab gleefully accepted the catch. At 102 for 6, South Africa were under the pump.

And yet the wicket Pakistan wanted most was not theirs. De Villiers clipped consecutive boundaries off Wahab, then in the bowler’s next over he swatted another and two audacious sixes, both off one leg and over long leg. Rahat was slashed over point for four more, Afridi tonked for two sixes, the first bringing de Villiers his fifty from 45 balls. Tremendous batting from a tremendous player, but would he get support?

Dale Steyn went next for 16, then Kyle Abbott for 12. Both hit sweet boundaries, both were undone by balls that moved away and took the edge. De Villiers took the batting Powerplay at 177 for 8 after 30, the target 55 from 17 overs remaining. Back came Wahab, who de Villiers hoicked for six and top-edged for four. It was Sohail Khan who removed de Villiers for 77, charging down the track and edging to Sarfraz. Moments later, Sarfraz pouched his sixth catch to spark mad scenes just as the rain returned. The ecstasy was palpable.

Pakistan had desperately needed something extraordinary after they underwhelmed with the bat after de Villiers put them in. Another poor start, a brief counter-attack by a player the whole of Pakistan appeared to want picked from the day the World Cup began, then a series of sloppy dismissals, another stoic Misbah-ul-Haq fifty, an all-too-brief Shahid Afridi cameo and a limp finish. This, combined with two rain interruptions that reduced the innings to 47 overs, formed the essence of Pakistan’s 222.

After being lifted by a terrific diving catch from Steyn at midwicket to get rid of Ahmed Shehzad for 18 in the ninth over, South Africa slacked off. Taking Steyn off after an opening spell of 3-2-5-0 was also a strange move from de Villiers, and his choices over the next half hour also backfired. After Imran Tahir’s two early overs went for 15, de Villiers brought himself on to bowl the 12th over and was taken for nine runs, and Duminy was swung for three sixes in an over by Sarfraz as the 50-run stand with Younis Khan was raised in quick time. To add to South Africa’s struggles, Duminy threw to the wrong end to give Sarfraz a life on 19. The batsman, drafted in as opener for the out-of-touch Nasir Jamshed, was visibly charged up as he laced five boundaries and those three sixes and provided Pakistan with the impetus at the top they so badly missed so far in the World Cup.

But then, suddenly, Sarfraz was run out on 49 off as many balls when attempting a very risky second. Looking to get to his fifty, he chanced Miller’s arm from deep fine leg and lay sprawled on the turf as South Africa celebrated. Sensing an opening, de Villiers called back Steyn for two overs but it was eventually his own assortment of non-threatening medium pace that ended a stand of 40, when Younis (37) got a leading edge to cover. It was a sloppy exit, undoubtedly, considering how well Younis had done to play Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Misbah, who until that wicket had made 19 from 38 balls, was once again left to revive the innings when Sohaib Maqsood (8) steered Abbott to point when the tall fast bowler was reintroduced. Umar Akmal came and went for 13, chipping Morkel to de Villiers to midwicket. After the second rain delay, Pakistan subsided. In the 17 deliveries bowled after Misbah’s exit, Pakistan managed just four runs. Steyn finished with 3 for 30, his best performance in this tournament, a day after he spoke of how desperate he was to make an impact.

Brief scores: Pakistan 222 in 46.4 overs (Misbah-ul-Haq 56, Sarfraz Ahmed 49, Dale Steyn 3/30) beat South Africa 202 in 33.3 overs (AB de Villiers 77, Rahat Ali 3/40, Wahab Riaz 3/45, Mohammad Irfan 3/52) by 29 runs (D/L method)

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

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