The third match of the Coca Cola Cup in Sharjah produced the first reasonably close finish of the tournament. Batting first, the Pakistanis could muster only 196. This too, thanks mainly to a 71 from Imran Nazir at the top of the order. The youngster showed tremendous composure and ability, but was not supported by anyone other than Younis Khan. Against a strong batting side like South Africa, 196 was never going to be enough. As it turned out, South Africa came through with 3 wickets to spare despite a spirited bowling performance from Pakistan.
Lance Klusener was the wrecker in chief for the South Africans picking up 5/47 off his 10 overs.
Injury kept both Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar out of the game. This meant that the mantle of number one fast bowler fell on Waqar Younis. Picking up the gauntlet admirably, Waqar produced a tight opening spell, squeezing the South Africans with some quality fast bowling. His rhythm was good and he was rewarded with two quick wickets. However, the second string of Pakistani bowlers could not quite keep things as tight. Off spinner Arshad Khan was the only other bowler who made things difficult for the South Africans. Bowling his off spinners extremely slowly, Arshad Khan made it difficult for the South Africans to get him away for runs. He ended with pickings of 2/34 off his 10 overs.
In the end, the South Africans had just enough firepower to get past the Pakistanis. Needing just under 45 overs to get past the total, the South Africans displayed a cool temperament through the innings. Just when the pressure seemed to be building up, Nicky Boje and Mark Boucher turned on the heat. It was once again a case of not having enough runs on the board that caused the downfall of the team batting first.
Boje in particular played a vital cameo, notching up 35 off just 42 balls. When the dangerous Waqar Younis returned to the attack in what was the last throw of the dice for Moin Khan Boje got into the act immediately, smashing a couple of fours on the trot. The consecutive boundaries took the pressure off and gave South Africa a good victory.
For his five wicket performance Lance Klusener was named man of the match.
This loss means that Pakistan will probably have to win the next two games they play to qualify for the finals. The South Africans are on a high after two good victories. However, one must remember that the Pakistanis are at their most dangerous best when they are down.