Pakistan v South Africa, Champions Trophy, Edgbaston June 10, 2013

Amla, bowlers leave Pakistan on brink

South Africa 234 for 9 (Amla 81) beat Pakistan 167 (Misbah 55, McLaren 4-19) by 67 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A taxi driver in Birmingham has bought a ticket to watch Pakistan every time they played in the city for the last 30 years, except this time. He simply did not have the confidence in their batting to bother. It turns out he was right.

South Africa lived to fight another day in the Champions Trophy as their bowlers, woeful against India but wolfish against an fragile line-up, defended a barely-par total. In the absence of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe led the pack with maturity while debutant Chris Morris added energy and Ryan McLaren backed them up at the death.

Misbah-ul-Haq was again Pakistan's lone ranger and again he could not take them over the line. He lacked support from everyone except Nasir Jamshed. By contrast, South Africa's anchor, Hashim Amla, enjoyed small contributions throughout the middle order.

In an almost exact replica to the England-Australia match that was played here on Saturday, Amla's 81 was as valuable as Ian Bell's 91 but it may never have swelled to that had Pakistan held on to an early chance. Amla was on 7 when he slashed at a short, wide delivery off Mohammad Irfan and presented a tough but takeable catch to Umar Amin at point. Amin dived, got fingers to it and then he watched it slip through. It was a moment that taught him a tough lesson: don't' drop Amla.

Over the last year, England, Australia and New Zealand have paid for that mistake. Pakistan may do so twice. They put Amla down at the Wanderers in March, he went on to score 122. Both then and now, South Africa came out winners.

Conditions could not have been more different to Johannesburg than they were in Birmingham. There it was a belter of a track on which runs rained. Here it was a sluggish surface that did not facilitate a free flow. Both teams started slowly, Pakistan ended that way too.

Mohammed Irfan and Junaid Khan kept South Africa to 36 runs in the first 10 overs and did not take wicket, although they could have had Amla. Morris, Tsotsobe and McLaren restricted Pakistan to 18 for 2 in the same period, which immediately made Pakistan's task more difficult.

By the 19th over, their required run rate had already ballooned to six an over and considering no one had scored at that rate at any stage of the game, it seemed unlikely Pakistan would. But Misbah marshalled proceedings in his usual, calm way. He saw off the good balls - and there were many which South Africa bowled - and waited to take advantage of anything that was occasionally tossed up or slightly wide.

AB de Villiers did a fine job of rotating his bowlers and was spoilt for choice with three seamers and three spinners. He used JP Duminy before Robin Peterson and it paid off, when Shoaib Malik was bowled by a delivery that rolled back onto his stumps, and brought Tsotsobe back at exactly the right time, after a first spell of five overs for six runs.

The left-armer used his variations well and bowled Jamshed an offcutter that he fed back. The tall man got down low and plucked it in his follow through. Misbah knew he had to battle on his own.

After 49 boundary-less deliveries, he cleared Morris over mid-on to release pressure but he was soon stranded. McLaren removed Umar Amin when he tried to go big and was caught at cover and Kamran Akmal, who was caught at point, in the same over and Pakistan's chase seemed over.

Misbah responded with a six over long-on and then his fight was also extinguished. He picked out midwicket from a Tsotsobe slower ball and left it to the tail to have some fun at the end. Instead, it was McLaren who helped himself to four wickets for five runs to ensure South Africa rounded up a convincing win.

They would not have been confident of that at the halfway stage. With 51 runs scored and six wickets falling in the last 10 overs of their innings, it seemed they had squandered the chance to build on a well-laid platform.

Even though Pakistan's three spinners cost them only 107 runs in 26 overs, Amla's 69-run stand with Faf du Plessis and the 41 put on by de Villiers and Duminy helped negate the collapse later on. South Africa will remain concerned about the four run-outs but showed significant improvement and will eye the last four.

Pakistan now look at the semi-finals from a greater distance and, although they are not out of the competition, they need West Indies to beat India on Tuesday. If Pakistan then beat India and West Indies triumph over South Africa in the final group games, three teams would have won one match and net run-rate will come into the equation.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent