Pakistan v South Africa, 1st ODI, Sharjah October 30, 2013

South Africa pull off one-run heist


South Africa 183 (Parnell 56, Ajmal 4-30, Afridi 3-37) beat Pakistan 182 (Shehzad 58, Tahir 3-45, Parnell 3-41) by one run
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

With 19 runs needed off 55 balls and six wickets in hand, the match seemed safe, even by Pakistan's standards. But as if allergic to cricket without high-drama, Pakistan conspired a dispiriting collapse as the pitch deteriorated in Sharjah, while Imran Tahir, playing his first ODI in two-and-a-half years, led South Africa to a one-run win.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe began the slide when he dismissed the well-set Umar Amin at the end of the 41st over, and Tahir struck immediately after, taking three wickets in his next 11 balls. Pakistan's last batting pair - Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Irfan - needed to score seven to win, together, and were doing it in leg byes and inside edges, with plenty of close calls in between. With three to get for victory, Ajmal took a single, exposing the clueless Irfan to Morne Morkel, and the bowler needed only two balls to secure the win. He hit the top of off stump, beating Irfan's lazy prod, sparking wild celebrations on the field, as a stunned crowd looked on in disbelief.

For a team that veers so wildly between genius and calamity, Pakistan played prudently and professionally for 90 overs of the series-opener, in Sharjah. Irfan had set the tone for the bowlers with a hostile, yet disciplined spell after Pakistan were asked to bowl, while Sohail Tanvir provided tight, intelligent support. The spinners ruthlessly exploited South Africa's frailty against spin, on a turning track, and remained collected in the face of Wayne Parnell's late surge.

The chase was measured, sometimes dour - even boring. Needing less than four an over, Pakistan travelled at a steady pace; taking few risks, biding their time. The only surprise was Misbah-ul-Haq throwing away his wicket to a wide half-volley on 31. Reasoning that he ought to have remained there, Misbah will probably blame himself for what happened late in the match. No doubt many others will as well.

If this was a tough defeat for Pakistan to swallow, it was almost as hard for the spectators to get their head around. Tahir was not getting any more turn than Ajmal had managed earlier in the day, it was just that balls had now begun keeping low - but not unpredictably so. Umar Akmal got himself into a tangle playing the first ball of the 42nd over, shaping to paddle-sweep, then deciding against it, then playing all around a slow straight one. And all of a sudden, panic erupted.

Surely not, you thought, but there was Tanvir edging a wide Tsotsobe ball to the keeper, leaving Pakistan seven down, ten runs still to get. Shahid Afridi had whacked a four off a long-hop in Tahir's previous over, and then when you felt even he could not be as irresponsible as to throw his wicket away, he got himself caught on the midwicket boundary, trying to hit another long hop for six.

Wahab Riaz was lbw to a nicely-delivered googly from Tahir later in the over, which brought the final pair together, and from then on, Pakistan's fate was held hostage by blind fortune. Luck smiled on them through a close lbw review - the result of another Tahir googly - and a series of edges and plays and misses, but it deserted Pakistan when they had two to get and 22 balls left.

Parnell's 56, much of it scored in the company of Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who himself contributed 15 to their ninth-wicket stand of 52, became a crucial contribution in the end - which it had not seemed to be for so much of the match. South Africa were 86 for 6 when Parnell arrived, and while he was technically out of his depth to the spinners, the seeds of defiance were sown in Parnell during a 39-run stand with David Miller.

When Tsotsobe arrived, with the score on 129 for 8, Parnell found a partner that found a way to survive as he did - through a series of inside and outside edges that were almost willed into falling safely. There were 15 overs remaining in the innings when they joined forces, and they played the match situation well, defending everything that was not susceptible to their limited range of attacking strokes. Occasionally they grew bold - Parnell reverse-swatted Saeed Ajmal over point for four and Tsotsobe launched him high over cow corner - but the majority of their efforts were directed towards gleaning value from the remaining overs. By finding the batting wits that had escaped a panicked top-order, the pair lifted South Africa to a total that they could conceivably defend.

Earlier, Ajmal's arrival at the bowling crease in the 11th over prompted familiar timidity in an already cautious batting effort. South Africa had groped their way around Sri Lanka two months before, and despite assurances that lessons from that series had been internalised, they lost seven wickets to Ajmal and Afridi in this match, as the each of the top five fell before eclipsing 20.

Graeme Smith had not been on that trip to Sri Lanka, but he overreached in Ajmal's second over, desperate to get to the pitch of the ball after having his outside edge beaten, and when one spun past his blade, Umar Akmal completed a simple stumping. Faf du Plessis couldn't decide whether to play forward or back and was lbw in Ajmal's next over, while AB de Villiers fell to a doosra, dancing down the pitch to offer a leading edge that Ajmal took on the second grab. At the end of his first six over spell, Ajmal had conceded nine runs, and bowled two maidens - his three scalps leaving South Africa at 68 for 5 after 21 overs.

Afridi bowled flatter and with less venom, but was soon extending South Africa's slide, albeit at a less dramatic rate.

Nasir Jamshed was out early in Pakistan's response, but that dismissal prompted so steady a response from the rest of the top order, that five maidens were bowled in the first ten overs of the innings. Ahmed Shehzad's 92-ball 58 contained only five fours - many of them behind square on the off side - and the run rate barely rose above four, such was the calm that pervaded the innings.

Sadly for Pakistan, but in a strangely familiar fashion, they swung from one extreme to the other in a matter of minutes, and made a mockery of themselves, in the face of some spirited but manageable bowling.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 1, 2013, 13:51 GMT

    Posted by Desihungama on (October 31, 2013, 19:21 GMT) This was basically a slap to all Pakistani Fans who are Misbah naysayers. From Misbah to Fans; "Here is your Pakistan Team without me". From what I noticed was NO Pakistani batsmen took responsibility for the chase. Everyone came in joyously and played horribly thinking "next man" will cover. And they forgot there is no next man in Pakistan Team. I blame Umar Amin, Umar Akmal and Afridi for this debacle. And what Ajmal thinking exposing Irfan to Wayne?

    this is the real fact. anything else is garbage.

  • Faisal on November 1, 2013, 12:34 GMT

    This defeat should not be taken as an aberration. It is a continuation of the malaise that Pakistan cricket suffers from. One could write volumes on long-term measures, but in the short-term, Pakistan need to bring in both Younus and Asad Shafiq into the ODI squad. Forget about strike rates; we need batsmen who can last 50 overs. Pakistan's strength is bowling, and when the bowlers set targets of around 200 or less, you just need the likes of Misbah, Younus and Asad who can stay there and see the team through. With Misbah alone, it exposes the ridiculous fragility of this batting. But then, as captain, its his call. And can we PLEASE stop calling Shahid Afridi an all rounder?? He is just a good leg spin bowler and a useful tail-ender who can slog a bit.

  • amer on November 1, 2013, 9:49 GMT

    i think being a pakistani ,, the most worst day in the history of pak cricket when afridi hit 100 runs on 37 balls and from that day he in pak team.. people saying he is the match winner but for 1 match out of dozens ,rest of that he is real match loser.. i wish with this standard of pak team SA should with this series 5-0. maybe after that some real tialant and new faces may come...unless shoaib,farhat and other use less players still there....

  • Harmon on October 31, 2013, 21:10 GMT


    And oh, coming back to the original point, you had said ---"We'll see how india's mighty batting fares on a real test pitch, and not an airport runway, when they face SA, in SA"---

    But when I told you that leave India for a while and let us see how SA themselves fare AT HOME, facing a much weaker bowling attack, on Day 2 of a test match, in the 2nd innings and what did we see? We saw that SA in fact fared worse than what an unprepared India fared on Day 1 of the 1st test match facing a much superior attack.

    You didn't say much about this point. Why?

    Also, in the match where Aus were 47 for 10, SA themselves fared not much better. They did a 47 for 9 in the same test match.

    Empirically, SA too don't seem to do anything great on greentops & worse in two diff ways when pitted against India recently.

    Indeed SA are a better team than India at the moment but don't use words like "we will see". What we saw I've just described to you above.

  • Muhammad on October 31, 2013, 19:32 GMT

    what good are so called allrounders riaz and tanveer are if they are not able to make just 19 runs? The ideal team from this squad should be simple, you have to drop non performing over weight Nasir Jamshed, ask Hafeez to open the innings or leave the team. In Asad Shafiq as one down. Further the last match is a slap on those who hate SHOAIB MALIK because almost in the current situation it was Shoaib Malik who took Pakistan to home in the PAK SA series in SA, if u guys do remember. He should in squad and if Afridi is not performing he should be replaced with malik, if he performs then still includes malik in the squad to have a pressure on Afridi in order to clearly communicate him that Mate either you are going to play responsible or will be replaced. THE TWO CULPRITS which continuously destroying the team are Shahid Afridi since 2007 and Muhammad Hafeez since 2011.

  • Muhammad on October 31, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    Pakistan lost match because of the poor selection of team and the squad. We pakistanies are always run after the glitters but not for the gold. Craps like Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar are praised here. Pakistans irritating irresponsible media just want to achieve fan following and TRPs mentione these craps as larger than life figures. Can any one with a slightest of a cricketing mind accept what Afridi was doing yesterday, he was shown this attitude a number of times in past and the most amazing part is that whenever his place is in danger he suddenly comes to know how to take singles and doubles. Shahid Afridi and players like him are the real curse to pakistan cricket. It is not that he was out, it is because the way he got out. Further, why we have three seamers and all who are left armers playing in a match? Riaz and tanveer were playing as allrounders what allrounders are they who can not

  • Jawwad on October 31, 2013, 19:21 GMT

    This was basically a slap to all Pakistani Fans who are Misbah naysayers. From Misbah to Fans; "Here is your Pakistan Team without me". From what I noticed was NO Pakistani batsmen took responsibility for the chase. Everyone came in joyously and played horribly thinking "next man" will cover. And they forgot there is no next man in Pakistan Team. I blame Umar Amin, Umar Akmal and Afridi for this debacle. And what Ajmal thinking exposing Irfan to Wayne?

  • cricket on October 31, 2013, 18:32 GMT

    afridi's shot wasn't irresponsible, he just couldnt hit a bad ball. I think that's enough indication he isn't what he used to be. A batsman is judged by how he punishes a bad ball, if he cant then its suffice to say he isnt a good batsman.

  • Masood on October 31, 2013, 16:04 GMT

    This match was won by self belief. One thing SA are never short on and Pak never have.

    Do Pakistan not have Sports Psychologists? The talent is clearly there to do way better.

  • ben on October 31, 2013, 15:00 GMT

    @stark62 - I agree with you to a point. This match was a done deal - with so many overs and wickets in hand there was no need for Afridi to do what he used to do well. He seems to be a distraction in the team. The team seem to be on edge when he's around. I feel sorry for the fans who had great expectations when he came in...and lasted a few balls as usual. He lacks discilpine for man who has played so many wonderful innings in the past.