Dubai: A seemingly below-par score was defended for the second time in the series as Pakistan out-spun and out-thought South Africa to level the rubber. Mohammad Irfan continued to impress with his pace while Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez shared six wickets among them on a surface which facilitated more turn than expected and against a line-up whose technical weaknesses against the art were exposed yet again.
In a battle of the two attacks, South Africa’s would have been satisfied with their work when they limited Pakistan to a total below the first-innings average of 228. Their seamers did the job through Morne Morkel, who generated extra bounce and used the short ball well, and Ryan McLaren, whose changes of pace worked. Those two took seven wickets together and conceded 72 runs in the 20 overs they bowled. Their efforts went in vain as the batsmen collapsed, with no-one managing a score over 30.
Colin Ingram’s miserable run continued. If not for overthrows, his streak of three ducks from three internationals would have extended to four. He was bowled by a Sohail Tanvir inswinger and will certainly be replaced in the line-up by Hashim Amla, who will be back from the next game.
Graeme Smith and JP Duminy spent 74 balls grafting for 36 runs to put South Africa on track. Duminy was the more comfortable, cutting and driving with relative ease while Smith struggled. Pakistan reviewed an lbw appeal against the former captain when he was on 10 but the umpire’s call stood. He persisted with moving across his stumps to defend, though, and was bowled when he missed the sweep. Five balls later, Duminy was caught at slip off Irfan to expose South Africa’s soft middle-order.
Ajmal generated sharp turn and with his sublime control, it seemed a wicket would fall off every ball. Faf du Plessis edged one which fell short off slip, AB de Villiers had an lbw appeal turned down – which replays showed should have been given out – and almost offered Ajmal a return catch.
For five and half overs, with Ajmal and Irfan in operation, Pakistan gave away only 17 runs. South Africa were strangled and by the time Afridi was brought on, at the start of the 23rd over, their frustration had reached breaking point.
Du Plessis got on the back foot to defend a flipper but was trapped on the pad with Afridi’s first ball. By the time he wanted to review, it was too late although it would have been wasted because Hawk-Eye revealed he was as out. In Afridi’s next over, de Villiers tried to cut and was caught behind. At 73 for 5, it was only a matter of time before South Africa unraveled.
Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren put on 35, South Africa’s second-highest partnership, but when Irfan, whose ability to pitch it up continues to earn him praise, had Parnell caught behind, South Africa were waiting to be finished off. Ajmal became the joint highest ODI wicket-taker of the year when Lonwabo Tsotsobe was given out lbw and Afridi took the final wicket to complete a second consecutive three-wicket haul.
In the end it seemed it was Pakistan, rather than South Africa, who could lay claim to de Villiers assertion that only four wickets were needed to dent their opposition. De Villiers’ bold statement was justified, though, when Pakistan were batting, because their last six put on just 92 runs in 21 overs.
After Ahmed Shehzad, who scored his third consecutive ODI fifty, was dismissed, Pakistan struggled against the discipline of the South Africa attack. The bowlers set the tone in the first two overs, which ended with Nasir Jamshed, for the second time in the series, top edging an attempted pull. Lonwabo Tsotsobe completed a well-judged catch at fine leg to enhance his opening passage of play in which he also troubled Hafeez. On seeing the left-armer cause problems, de Villiers introduced Wayne Parnell at the other end but the hero from the first match could not find his length and offered Pakistan relief.
Shehzad and Hafeez took 32 runs off the last four overs of the Powerplay to set Pakistan up. No sooner had they done that when Hafeez stepped out against Ryan McLaren and inside-edged a back of a length ball onto his own stumps.
His departure forced Shehzad to go back into his shell but he slowly emerged from it with Misbah-ul-Haq at his side. Misbah showed more impatience than usual, even after Shehzad has raised his bat to the only half-century of the match, and would have trusted his younger partner to bat for a while longer.
Shehzad, though, went soon after Misbah, offering the simplest of return catches to Imran Tahir to spark Pakistan’s slump. After he was dismissed, the two Umar’s – Amin and Akmal – were together for 51 balls in which they only managed 31 runs. South Africa’s bowlers gave away very little so that when McLaren brought his change of pace to the fore, they were victims of it.
Misbah predicted turn would be a factor later in the match and he was proved correct. The teams have four days between fixtures to regroup, and South Africa will want to take advantage of Gary Kirsten’s presence as their batting consultant before the third game.
Pakistan 209 (Shehzad 58, McLaren 4-34) beat South Africa 143 (McLaren 29*, Afridi 3-26) by 66 runs