South Africa v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, Johannesburg March 17, 2013

SA stay cool to take series lead


As Shahid Afridi flayed the South African attack, memories of their last two, perhaps even three ODIs at the Wanderers came flooding back.

South Africa have not won at the Bullring since February 2008, losing to Australia, India and Sri Lanka in the process. The last two were close defeats in matches which underlined South Africa's problems with pressure. Against India, South Africa were bowled out for 189, chasing 191 and against Sri Lanka, they could not defend 312 despite having them eight down.

Every time Afridi breached the boundary, he provided another flashback to those fixtures. It was possible that, once again, South Africa would be beaten even though they should have been doing the beating.

What made this time different, according to AB de Villiers, is that South Africa did not panic. "I always felt we were in the game," he said. "Shahid Afridi played really well but I felt like we were in control I always felt our bowlers always had the skill to get him out."

He was not wrong because soon after Ryan McLaren's almost yorker-length low full toss had Afridi driving and playing on. Had McLaren not overstepped, Afridi would have been out for 73.

That ended up being just 15 runs short of what he eventually scored, but the shot Afridi followed that escape with would have sent alarm bells off in any captain's mind. De Villiers did his best to hit the snooze button after Afridi sent a ball over the Golf Course End stand.

"There was a bit of a breeze coming in and I when I looked at the shot I just didn't how he hit the ball that far," de Villiers admitted. "I forced myself to think, 'he is playing a great knock, there is no reason to get emotional, he is playing out of skin here. It's not as though we are bowling badly, but this guy is playing an amazing knock'. We've seen it all over the world, one guy can come in and take the game away, there is nothing you can do about that."

Eventually Lonwabo Tsotsobe managed to do something. Another full toss tempted Afridi but he holed out to long-off. South Africa still had to toil to remove the tail and a lack of yorkers made the job harder.

De Villiers explained it was not the plan to aim the toes, even though Allan Donald had earlier said it was. "That wasn't the plan. We wanted to go length and try and nick him off," he said of their plans to Afridi. "The rest of the time the bowlers hit their lengths well and bowled bouncers well, especially the slower ball bouncer."

That is exactly the delivery Donald said anyone could come up with and although change of pace got South Africa the first five wickets, they still needed something more potent at the end. For the three days between this match and the next one, that will be one of the things they will work on as they look to wrap up the series and string two consecutive wins together.

De Villiers believed the batsmen showed the right approach to becoming more consistent. In saying that, he was talking mostly about himself and Hashim Amla, who shared a world-record third wicket stand of 238. "In our body language, we showed that we are here to play," de Villiers said. "When we got a gut feel when a bowler is feeling a bit weak, we sensed it was time to take them on. That happened a few times."

While South Africa feel they have made a statement of intent, so do Pakistan. Despite defeat, they showed their ability and for Misbah, that was good enough. "Everybody believed that Pakistan can't play well while they are chasing, especially such a huge total. Today we showed that we can do that," he said. "It's all about the mind, you need to be positive."

Afridi also announced himself and both captains hope that is a sign of things to come in the remaining two matches. "He was also under tremendous pressure but we know he can be really dangerous at No. 7," Misbah said. "He has really good confidence and he will be good for us in the next matches."

De Villiers said it was "good to see Afridi back" but joked that he wouldn't like him to keep being back as the series heads into its decisive week.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vinod on March 20, 2013, 12:58 GMT

    i thought Shahid came in very late. misbah, please promote him up the order for the team's sake. can we at least guarantee that you will give him No. 4 slot for the next 3 years or until the time he quits ODIs?

  • B on March 19, 2013, 16:17 GMT

    The only thing Pakistan have to do in regards to Nasir jamshed is to play him as nr 3. That is all.

  • Tom on March 19, 2013, 14:44 GMT

    Pakistan is struggling with right team combination. Having four spinners in the side is pointless on these wickets against Amla and AB. Also Younis and Shoaib are both In and Out everytime they play and they ae very inconsistant therefore Umer Akmal and Asad Shafiq are better choice. I wonder why they didn't consider Ahmad Shazad when he was In form and scored some good runs. I believe can beat SA in all formats if their play the right combination. Pakistan got unlucky as they missed two Amla chances as these two players are the best batsman against spin.

  • Lloyd on March 19, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    I agree with@dariouscorny that SA's bowling attack in this ODi series is still very much an experimental side ,despite Kirsten saying its not, as the poor bowling from the overweight Rory K , expensive Lopsie and Peterson cannot be in the mix for the upcoming Champions Trophy - if they are then we will go home early again. They are back up bowlers, if that, hence the ease at which Pakistan hunted down the big score.We have seen this time and time again that one good over is undone by poor back up bowling. Get the youngsters in now before its too late Donald or are we still plagued by the quota system.

  • darius on March 18, 2013, 19:39 GMT

    this match showed that other than Steyn SA has no potent bowler in their armoury,Rory seems a trundler with no swing and variations,the less said about others ,the better,they were bowling half volleys and lollies to Afridi who just kept on smoking them for sixes,had he stayed their for 2-3 overs more,he wud hv won that match for Pak in that huge chase.....thanks to the killer innings from AB and Amla who just gave the cushion to their bowlers

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2013, 15:04 GMT

    It should be much different if u give a chance to Ahmad Shahzad as a opener with Kamran akmal where they always love to hit on Rise Balls rather than Hafeez coz Africa Seamers love to bowl Short Balls rather than on fuller length that what we had already seen in the previous games , apart from that P>C>B had to think about Younis Khan to have some rest for the forthcoming series . Afridi brialliant knock but the team managment had to think the Bowler like Tsotsobe will be always Butchered by Afridi any time and anywhere b.coz of his traditional length bowled to afrid .He is not like Irfan pathan which can swing the ball at that particular length.... I really like to c Ahmad Shamad rather than Jamshed.

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    Asad for Shoaib malik and umar for kamran ...

  • Owais on March 18, 2013, 8:30 GMT

    @khurrmam S Chaudhry. Fully agreed about too much being said about no-ball dismissal of Afridi. Amla was dropped twice by generous Pakistanis. Similarly, on a different note, too much fuss was made out of Kallis dismissal by everyone, including commentators. Similar fuss was never made by NUMBER of wrong dismissals throughout SA summer that went totally against Pakistan.

  • Rayhan on March 18, 2013, 4:27 GMT

    Drop Yunus and bring Asad - Asad is at the starting point of his career and in very good form. You don't play him now, he will loose confidence and that's what cricket is about. Yunus can't do anythign Asad cannot, so Mr. Khan, please quit ODI and make way for a younger and more talented ODI player. Shoiaib Malik should also be shown the door and Umar Akmal should be drafted in - Umar should also be asked to keep wickets so another batsman can be slotted in, someone like Ahmed Shahzad. When Misbah retires, draft in another good player like Hamad Azam. But that should be Misbah's call really as he has done wonders with this team - one of Pakistan's great captains. But really, Yunus, Kamran and Shoaib need to leave the team. Rest of the players are good amongst the available lot. And please, NO IMRAN FARHAT.

  • Zikria on March 18, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    One good inning in 50, with this performance he secure seat in the team for another 50 matches. Disgustin............