Yousuf ton helps Pakistan draw level
An assured 117 from Mohammad Yousuf guided Pakistan to a 25-run win in the second ODI in Lahore to level the five-match ODI series 1-1. South Africa crashed to their first defeat of the tour as Pakistan, despite an atrocious fielding display, held their nerve to defend 266.
Winning the toss and electing to bat, Pakistan slumped to 13 for 2 by the sixth over of the innings before Yousuf, with useful contributions from Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan, rescued them. Although failing to clear the infield on various occasions, Yousuf's nine boundaries, mostly through the cover region, were brilliant. A couple of cover-drives off Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini early in his innings - one leaning forward, the other going back - eased the pressure and forced the field to the edge of the circle.
Although to be solely blamed for Younis' dismissal - run out as he was sent back after scoring a useful 32 to initiate the fightback - Yousuf relied heavily on singles and twos as the South African bowlers kept to a tight line. Malik, however, dealt mainly in boundaries while being involved in a century partnership with Yousuf. Jumping down the pitch at will, he twice dispatched Johan Botha - who persisted with bowling round the wicket - for sixes down the ground before sending a Jacques Kallis slower delivery in the same direction.
While Malik used deft touches to deliveries close to his body, Yousuf guided Charl Langeveldt past point and glanced Botha down to fine leg for boundaries as Pakistan's scoring rate crossed the five-an-over mark. However, an unusually subdued batting by Yousuf slowed down Pakistan's progress in the middle overs as first Misbah, with a run-a-ball 21, and a solitary six by Afridi marginally lifted the scoring rate while Yousuf nudged around for his 13th ODI hundred, only his third in the last 53 innings.
South Africa's bowlers ended the innings just as they had started - by not giving the batsmen any room and restricting them to singles. Aided by rash strokeplay by the tail, wickets fell in a flurry towards the end.
Pakistan needed early wickets to peg back South Africa and Umar Gul, opening the bowling this time round, provided just that. After cleaning up Graeme Smith off a no-ball, he struck Herschelle Gibbs plumb in front for a first-ball duck. As Kallis failed to repeat his heroics from the Test series for the second time running - edging a wide Sohail Tanvir delivery to Younis Khan at second slip - after being beaten time and again, Pakistan were truly on top.
Although Smith and AB de Villiers staged a mini-recovery, it was Pakistan's fielding that let them off the hook more. Dropping no less than five catches - Misbah, Afridi and Gul being the culprits - Pakistan looked sloppy in the field as Smith capitalised on some wayward bowling from Tanvir. With the ball being angled across him from the left-armer, Smith utilised the flick well to score freely in the square leg and mid-wicket region.
As de Villiers joined the show - flicking Tanvir to square leg and driving him through extra cover down on one knee - the home side eased the pressure. The introduction of Afridi, however, slowed the scoring-rate considerably, while Iftikhar Anjum got rid of de Villiers and Justin Kemp.
Smith, probably the luckiest man in Lahore, trudged around for his half-century and Mark Boucher completed 4000 ODI runs, but South Africa needed more than singles and twos to go 2-0 up in the series. The spinners, however, persisted with a nagging line and the batsmen failed to score freely and perished trying to increase the tempo. Although Pollock and Albie Morkel threatened with late cameos, the rocketing asking-rate left the tail with much to do as Pakistan successfully defended under lights to head to Faisalabad all square.
Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo