Pakistan v South Africa, 5th ODI, Lahore October 29, 2007

Passing on the choker tag

Pakistan threw it all away in a manner to rival the best efforts of their opponents, South Africa

Pakistan lost as their batsmen succumbed to panic in sight of victory © AFP

Will the real, true chokers please stand up? South Africa have, fairly or not, acquired a bit of a reputation for choking during big moments over the last decade. If they're not careful, then after their final lapses in the ICC World Twenty20 and this loss here, Pakistan might catch up and even surpass that reputation.

Six wickets for 20 runs in 36 balls when the game was all but wrapped up is a collapse that 1990s Pakistan would've been proud of. You'd like to think that it was a magical, spectacular burst of reverse swing that did Pakistan in, much as it did many of Pakistan's opponents - including South Africa - many times in the past.

But this fall was sparked by ostensibly far more mundane, constant ingredients. Albie Morkel, Makhaya Ntini and gang bowled with discipline and much commitment, nothing more. The fielding was outstanding - within context, AB de Villiers' catch to dismiss Shahid Afridi will be difficult to better - but an equal accomplice was the batting born of supreme panic.

Among the many concerns Pakistan take from this series straight in to India, the batting will be the biggest. They tried, tinkered, tampered and twiddled through this series but failed to find an opening pair that could provide more than a 42-run start. The only time the batting has looked calm, in control and secure is when Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and to an extent Shoaib Malik have been at the crease. Once they fell today, the terror was tangible, as Graeme Smith expertly recognised: "Yousuf and Younis are the lifeline of their batting." To burden them so, continually, will tell at some point because beyond them, Pakistan are on a wing and a prayer.

Shoaib Akhtar's return and Rao Iftikhar Anjum's growth has given the attack a healthier feel no doubt; one plus point from this decider's debris in fact was the restriction of South Africa without Umar Gul and Mohammad Asif. But it will matter little if Kamran Akmal continues to flounder. Where South Africa held all of what came their way, Akmal dropped Jacques Kallis on 2. It was a chance Geoffrey Boycott's mother would've fancied. That fluff apart, Pakistan's fielding wasn't poor today, but it has fluctuated wildly and in no discipline is that a good trait.

Yet Pakistan's ills should take nothing away from South Africa, for you will not find more deserving winners. Right through this tour, they have wanted every session, every day, every match just that much more. They have planned well and executed even better.

Their top order has ground out runs, blasted them and stolen them with discipline and fair verve. Unlike Pakistan they have done so as a group. Where five of their batsmen have made at least a fifty and two have made hundreds, only three Pakistan batsmen scored fifties. South Africa have played on wickets they clearly dislike yet have countered whatever the conditions have flung their way.

Their bowlers have followed, even in defeat. Collectively, they bowled two no-balls over five matches. Pakistan bowled two no-balls before the first over ended in today's match. Pakistan gave away 52 wides and no-balls, South Africa just 29 and in the decider, where it mattered the most they gave away seven. Pakistan conceded ten extras, and with the one dropped chance, duly wrote away a series win.

An unbelievable win, Graeme Smith rightly called it and a stepping stone to the future. More wins like this and the choker tag may not stick around so stubbornly. For Pakistan, a fresh era could not have started in a more worrying fashion. With India and Australia to come, where pressure will be greater even than it was today, it is unlikely to get any easier.

Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Junaid on November 3, 2007, 8:20 GMT

    i can't understand why we are playing in this passion and how long we will continue this? Just recently we have lost the 20-20 worldcup and now in this series again, i am watching the consistance pattern in which we are playing when we are chasing.Why we reach at the target after 45 overs?Is that our game plan??Can't we finish the game a bit earlier.Why we make problems for ourself while chasing even if we have to chase just 100 runs.Australian,South African,Sri Lankans also chase and win the matches but their game plan never look like to win the game in 45th over.How many crucial matches we had loss just becuase of this silly approach. Is there anyone to let them know about this message

  • Narayanan on October 31, 2007, 13:14 GMT

    According to me it was the poor shot selection from afridi & misbah despite the reqd run rate was well less near 4.0, lead the way to was also the great catches from Villiers & boucher lead SA to win

  • Cricinfouser on October 30, 2007, 15:32 GMT

    My Dear Pakistani Fans, I see so much similarity between the comments posted by Indian fans after India loses. We also cry for heads of players.. I hope games between India and Pakistan are close and interesting and played in good spirits. I will love India to win BUT more importantly we should have good cricket games in good spirits.

  • Aamir on October 30, 2007, 15:30 GMT

    Yet another dissappointing display from Pakistan team,specially from the batting point of view. One can expect such a batting collapse in future as well because looking into the Pakistan side we can find a lot of batsmen who not technically correct.Its very dissappointing that we have players like Misbah,imran Nazir,shahid afridi,taufiq umer who are not technically correct at all but still playing for Pakistan at international level. Now is the time for the PCB to really take a serious action and search for batsmen who are technically sound. Because its the batting that is letting us down most of the times. There is lots of talent in Pakistan. I am sure if a serious effort is made PCB they will find a lots of brilliant players. we cannot expect a very good performance from Pakistan in the indian tour but still being a Pakistani I wish good them good luck.

  • Rashid on October 30, 2007, 14:09 GMT

    There is one thing the cricket board has to learn and tell all the players that they are not heroes, they are only paid professionals who are paid to play good. If they don't play good, they would be fired. That is how it works in Australia and thats how it works in real life. The problem with us (Pakistanis and Indians) is that we don't understand the difference between a professional and a hero. Imagine how much money we give these immature players per year to playu for Pakistan and what is the out put. By sitting in front of the TV or going to the Stadium WE pay for their lucrative fees and what do we get in response. Shaid Afridi is the worst cricketer I have ever seen. Let anyone play 245 matches like Afridi and I can bet my life that result would be different.

    Imran Nazir, Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan should be banned to play cricket for Pakistan.

    I am not sure if I am going to waste any more of my time watching Pakistani team play (I wish I could wirte here CRICKET).

  • Rauf on October 30, 2007, 12:37 GMT

    It's not right to blame one individual for the loss when the whole foundation of cricket in Pakistan is poor. Swapping one player for another are just cosmetic changes to keep the gullible fans happy and talking. If we want to compete with the best then we have to be prepared for it from the ground up. Create some fast/bouncy pitches, groom the young players and let them prove their skills for few years before bringing them to the national team. Our openers are a joke. What kind of cricket country are we that we can't find two openers who can bat long enough for fans to finish a cup of tea. Feels like our selectors have a pool of best "gulli danda" players to select the team from rather then FC cricket. Look at Aussies... they are geriatrics compared to our "youthfull" team BUT they win matches and that's what counts at the end of the day.

  • Zeeshan on October 30, 2007, 11:45 GMT

    Pakistan Lost & They Lost the Grace as well. Now PCB should review their selector's Panel and also the policy to try try again the TRIED PLAYERS. To me the culprits are:

    1- KAMRAN AKMAL; who, I claim, is now a leading expert, by a distance, in dropping chances. 2- SHAHID AFRIDI; who is so short of intelligence and maturity that talent can do none. 3- Misbah Ul Haq; who must had to realize that he is filling the boots of INZI and so his role is not a dasher but a finisher.

    For God and Pakistan's sake please get them out of team or Pakistan should quit the international cricket.

  • Saud on October 30, 2007, 11:44 GMT

    The one day series showed that batting isnt one of our strengths. I feel that you can only rely on three individuals in the team as far as the batting goes: Younis, Yousuf and Malik (his consistency has improved alot). I think it would be harsh to say that Maliks captaincy let us down. On that front i think Pakistan have a smart, down to earth and reliable individual. The problems are simple but there are a lot of them. We dont have an opening pair simple as that. Our wicketkeeper despite the number of chances provided to him to prove his worth is shoddy, extremely shoddy. Misbah doesnt deserve to be at number 5. Ok he did well at the T20 but drafting in a 33 year old who has yet to prove himself at this level is a huge mistake. Imran Nazir has all the shots in the book but he lacks one thing: a brain. He has a habit of throwing his wicket away and old habits die hard. My only worry is where is the talent coming thru to fill these huge holes.

  • Umar on October 30, 2007, 11:21 GMT

    Hm...wat to say, Irresponsible top order, succumbing meakly to the pressure by the tail enders. Look at the final one day between the India and australia in bombay. The fantastic australia side which are best finishers of game could not mutilate the tail of India. India's tail wagged merrily , so wat pak learnt from their arch rival i don't know. "Never say die" was the attitude each player should have. Shahid afridi is not consistant he is aseasonal player, he should be selected only on rotational basis. Misbah-ul haq is surprise selection. Imran nazir had game, but he is not a match winner. All that we need is consistant players like mohammed yousuf and younis khan The selection should think every day and everyaspect before challanging India

  • Nabil on October 30, 2007, 11:02 GMT

    In my eyes the Pakistan team has done a great disservice to the nation. It is about time that someone take the players by their shirts and give them a swift talking to. I have had enough of having the nation's hearts broken time and time again by this Pakistani team. Any team that puts on its countries national colours should look proud to be wearing them and should give their all for the country. Unfortunately A Pakistani supporter in the last few months if not couple of years have been bombarded with one abject surrender after another. Either the team has been incapable of handling the pressure or they seem unwilling to fight with their heart and soul for the country. Yesterday's final was a case in point at one stage requiring only 80 runs to win with 7 wickets in hand and 20 overs remaining, at another 25 runs needed of 7 overs with 5 wickets in hand. Yet they still contrived to lose the match.

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