Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Dippenaar takes South Africa to 3-2 series victory

South Africa 193 for 3 in 45.5 overs (Dippenaar 74) beat Pakistan 192 in 49.3 overs (Abdul Razzaq 38, Pollock 3-33) by seven wickets, and won the series 3-2

South Africa completed a remarkable turnaround in this one-day series, winning the fifth and final match at Rawalpindi by seven wickets to come back from 0-2 down to take the series 3-2. Their heroes were Boeta Dippenaar, who anchored the innings with an accomplished 74, and Mark Boucher, the stand-in captain, who had an inspired time in his first ODI in charge. He had to step up to lead in the absence of Graeme Smith, who like Andrew Hall was banned from this match for misdemeanours back in the second game at Lahore.

South Africa looked likely winners from early on, when Andre Nel made two important early breakthroughs. Shaun Pollock finished with the best figures, but Nel and Robin Peterson, the inexperienced slow left-armer, both took two important wickets as well.

The return of Inzamam-ul-Haq after a leg injury did little to help Pakistan, who have underperformed after those two early victories. Batsman after batsman prodded and jabbed ... and perished. None of the top-order batsmen was capable of playing the sheet-anchor role that was badly needed.

To add to Pakistan's woes, Boucher had a plan for every batsman, plus some inspired bowling changes and field-placings. And when South Africa batted, Dippenaar showed the Pakistanis how to go about building an innings, and with help from Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis he ensured that the victory was completed without much ado.

South Africa took control as early as the second over of the day, when Mohammad Hafeez's miserable run continued. His middle stump was uprooted by Nel, and when Yousuf Youhana was lbw to Pollock, it was 16 for 2. Pollock, who was economical throughout these five matches, and Nel - whose intensity was contagious - never let up on the discipline and were pivotal in the context of the series triumph.

Younis Khan joined Yasir Hameed, and though both tried in vain to unsettle the bowlers by standing outside their crease with a middle-stump guard, the scoreboard ticked over only slowly. Then Boucher pulled the first rabbit out of his cap. In the 10th over, bowled by Nel, Boucher moved Kallis from second slip to short midwicket. The next ball was well pitched up and homing in on leg stump, and Hameed obligingly chipped it straight to Kallis (35 for 3).

Inzamam was struggling with his leg injury, and his notoriously suspect running was further hindered. Boucher encouraged his team to shy at Inzamam's end whenever they could, and it paid off when Jacques Rudolph threw down the stumps with a direct hit from mid-on. And finally, when Younis and Shoaib Malik were playing the seamers comfortably, Boucher quickly brought on Peterson. He duly obliged with two quick wickets, with generous assistance from the batsmen. Malik holed out to Nel, while Younis played back to one that kept very low.

With Rashid Latif nudging intelligently in partnership with Abdul Razzaq, who played some lavish drives on both sides of the wicket in his 38, a spot of late-order carnage seemed on the cards. But Boucher didn't let things drift and brought back Makhaya Ntini, who responded by persuading Razzaq to edge a catch behind (152 for 7). Latif, who nurdled 25, received some useful support from the tail and managed to lift the total from meagre to remotely defendable.

If Pakistan were to win they needed early wickets, and Shoaib Akhtar nearly obliged during a fiery opening spell. But Dippenaar and Herschelle Gibbs managed to keep him out, and also kept the score ticking over at four an over. Akhtar's first over nearly did the trick: first a huge appeal for leg-before against Dippenaar was turned down, then he completely missed a yorker-length ball that fizzed past the off stump. Dippenaar played and missed a couple of times in Akhtar's next over, but with Mohammad Sami getting his length all wrong, he grew in confidence and slowly unveiled some neat cuts and pulls.

Dippenaar was ably supported, first by Gibbs and then by Kallis. They eased the pressure by collecting the odd boundary to raise the rate. Danish Kaneria, the legspinner, bowled an impressive spell in which he turned the ball appreciably, and his awkward bounce unsettling the batsmen. He was rewarded with the wicket of Gibbs, who danced down the track, missed, and was stumped by a distance (75 for 1). But then Kallis and Dippenaar added 93 at a steady rate, and apart from one stray yorker that nearly castled Kallis, and a wayward chip that sailed between two fielders, both were very assured and picked off the singles easily.

Sami came back in the 39th over, with 25 needed, and caused a minor ripple. He bowled Kallis with one that kept low, and finally trapped Dippenaar leg-before. His matchwinning 74 occupied 125 balls, and contained five fours. But Rudolph and Neil McKenzie survived some edgy moments to guide South Africa to a 3-2 series win with 25 balls to spare - a final outcome that seemed almost impossible after those two defeats in Lahore at the start of the series.