Dubai: Forget Twenty20. Two overs was enough to decide this contest.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Dale Steyn sliced through Pakistan’s top order to effectively end the match before it had even properly begun. They drilled the holes from which Pakistan’s structure collapsed, eventually succumbing to their fourth total under 100 in this format and giving their bowlers no chance.
While South Africa’s attack used the short ball cleverly, poor shot selection accounted for most of Pakistan’s undoing and none were guiltier than the three batsmen who were dismissed early. With non-existent footwork, they chased tempting deliveries placed outside the offstump and laced with a hint of swing.
Ahmed Shehzad flayed loosely and got a thick edge to slip, where Hashim Amla took a good catch. Sohaib Maqsood was equally irresponsible, proding at a Steyn delivery to give Quinton de Kock a simple chance. And Mohammad Hafeez did as expected, against Steyn. He tried to cut one that was just back of a length and also sent an edge de Kock’s way.
Pakistan were 4 for 3 after two overs and there was no way back even after Shahid Afridi had been promoted to No.3. He watched the carnage from his end before launching Tsotsobe over mid-off to try and play his normal game.
Contrastingly, Shoaib Malik was not in the mood for any risks and saw off an entire Tsostobe over while remaining watchful against Ryan McLaren. While he ate up deliveries, Afridi grew impatient and when Tsotsobe gave him a short ball, he pulled it straight to deep-backward square leg.
Umar Akmal arrived with some defiance. He delicately played late to send McLaren to the fine leg boundary and found the gap on the leg side to drive Parnell. When Malik tried to show the same force, he played into Imran Tahir’s plan. A wide ball, outside Malik’s reach, enticed him out of his crease and when he missed, he was stumped.
Abdul Razzaq seemed as though he would be able to form a partnership with Akmal but holed out needlessly off McLaren. Tahir had a second stumping off a wide – this time by accident when he bowled one down the leg-side and Sohail Tanvir could not glance it away.
Akmal was Pakistan’s last man standing and the only one who seemed at ease against the short ball. He accounted for half of Pakistan’s total but in his haste to add a half-century to his feats for the evening, he was run out off the penultimate delivery for 49. At least Pakistan could take some consolation from batting out their overs. Defending 98 was always going to be tough but Pakistan made it harder for themselves when they missed a chance off the first ball. Hashim Amla edged to slip but Sohaib Maqsood barely moved. After Amla had played two classy drives, he moved across his stumps to whip Tanvir away but was bowled.
Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis looked set to finish things quickly as they reached 37 for 1 after five overs but were forced to be more careful against the spinners. They dragged the match past its halfway stage and then accelerated.
Abdur Rehman’s first over went for 18 as du Plessis scooped him over Akmal’s head and launched him down the ground. De Kock’s good form from the one-day series continued. He smoked the ball over midwicket for six, twice. Two more fours took him within two runs of his fifty but he let du Plessis hit the winning run. The pair went on to add 83.
South Africa won the match with five and half overs remaining and sent a powerful message ahead of the remaining fixture in the UAE and the two return legs back home.
South Africa 99 for 1 (de Kock 48*, du Plessis 37*) beat Pakistan 98 for 9 (Akmal 49, Steyn 3-15) by nine wickets