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Firdose Moonda in Bloemfontein
March 10, 2013
A batsman to see off more than half the overs, bowlers who could continually apply pressure, and committed fielding on the biggest ground in South Africa, is what Misbah-ul-Haq felt he needed in Bloemfontein. In other words, "everything went wrong," and he admitted as much.
Everything from selection - Pakistan were a seamer short - to the toss, where AB de Villiers was happy Misbah sent him in, to the efforts with bat and ball.
On a flat pitch, Misbah conceded that although he would have preferred a target of around 280, "even nine an over was chaseable," to fall so far short was not a good reflection on Pakistan. The bowling was challenging - there was some swing from Lonwabo Tsotsobe and some bounce from Ryan McLaren - but it was not impossible to score.
What Pakistan lacked was someone with the temperament to stay at the crease. Mohammad Hafeez was unlucky - "what can you do?" Misbah said in response to questions about the run-out - but Nasir Jamshed and Younis Khan chased wide deliveries, Asad Shafiq misdirected a hook, Misbah was found wanting against the short ball and Shoaib Malik did not pick a slower one.
"We needed someone to bat through," Misbah said "It's difficult when you are losing wickets to chase a total like that. Wickets in hand is key. You want your main batsmen to go in and keep scoring."
Having conceded a large total, it was important that Pakistan's batsmen showed more discipline than their bowlers. The attack did not escape Misbah's criticism. "We did not manage to take wickets, we could not manage to create pressure and the fielding was mediocre," he said.
It is not the time for crisis talks yet, though. Misbah chose to take a measured view of the defeat. "Everybody knows what we did wrong. We need to improve the areas we are bowling, build more partnerships and every batsmen who is set needs to carry on."
Not so for South Africa. Even though the next match is five days away, AB de Villiers said the boost this has given the team will serve them well for the rest of the series. "We've got confidence now," he said. "We had a really good performance with a lot of pressure on us."
Expectation on South Africa was low before this series because they appeared an unsettled unit. It is only one performance but already they look ready to shelve that notion as the former bit-part players had starring roles. Colin Ingram, Farhaan Behardien and Ryan McLaren were under the most scrutiny coming into the match and all three put in impressive performances.
Ingram had to build an innings and a partnership, and faith in him appeared low when de Villiers came in at No.3 instead of him. "It's taken us a while to come up with some sort of plan for batting. When we have a solid foundation, like we did today, it's a good time for me to come in," de Villiers explained. "I enjoy playing against the spinners and I can work it around a little."
Ingram followed soon after and helped de Villiers create the "game changer," with a 120-run stand. "We hussled between deliveries, we showed intent and we showed two good cricket brains," de Villiers said. "We played the spinners well so it was easy for me to bat with Colin."
Behardien showed his ability to finish, something that he has not managed to do so far. The end result was that the bowlers went into the second half with an advantage and McLaren exploited it fully.
On his home turf, he used the short ball well and formed an important part of the seam quartet that tied Pakistan down. McLaren has not had his standout performance in ODI cricket yet, and with Dale Steyn returning and Morne Morkel close to recovery, he needed to do something to prove his worth.
"It's probably the most pleasing thing of all to watch Ryan develop," de Villiers said. "Every game I have ever played against, he has been a real fighter and even though he struggled in the past, to see him perform like this is great. He looks comfortable at this level now."
With an all-round effort from his charges, de Villiers found the captaincy less of a burden and "felt more in control." He was also able to gauge the level of commitment from the men he commands, and on the evidence of this effort, he was satisfied. "I can see guys wanting to be in this team and perform in this team," he said. Even those who didn't do that emphatically in previous games.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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