Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Johan Botha restricted Pakistan to 119 before Colin Ingram and JP Duminy revived the chase from a wobbly 26 for 3 with a 66-run partnership to push South Africa to victory in the first of the two Twenty20 games in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan fought hard with the bowling but the battle was lost by their batsmen.
There was a predictable monotony about the Pakistan batting. The openers didn't last long, Umar Akmal flattered to deceive, Shahid Afridi unfurled a couple of violent hits to threaten a revival, Misbah-ul-Haq batted slowly and the lower order collapsed.
The chase shouldn't have got so close but South Africa slipped up against Shoaib Akhtar early in the piece. Loots Bosman crashed one straight to cover point and AB de Villiers dragged a pull shot to his stumps as Shoaib picked up two wickets in his second over. And when Graeme Smith was bowled, attempting a cut against Mohammad Hafeez, South Africa were wobbling at 26 for 3 at 5.1 overs. Pakistan brought on Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul and the duo kept the runs down to maintain the pressure.
However, the release of pressure came from unexpected quarters. It was set up perfectly for Afridi to come in and strangle the batsmen with his accuracy but he leaked 23 runs from his two overs: Duminy collected a boundary to fine-leg and Ingram swung one over long-on and heaved another to the square-leg boundary to propel South Africa ahead. Duminy and Ingram batted sensibly to add 66 runs in 10.4 overs to push South Africa close to the winning line. Though Duminy fell, to a good diving catch by Umar Akmal at long-on, David Miller hit a few boundaries to ensure the scoring rate didn't slacken and Ingram remained unbeaten to take South Africa home.
Barring a couple of poor overs from the Morkel brothers at the start - Albie struggled with wides and Morne struggled with no-balls - South Africa did nearly everything right. They kept it tight on good lines and lengths and waited for Pakistan to implode. Tsotsobe removed the openers to set the tone for the innings: Imran Farhat fell to an ugly slog, edging to slip, and Shahzaib Hasan fell to a good tumbling catch from JP Duminy running back from point after scooping an intended big hit.
Botha came on after the Powerplay to strangle Pakistan with a triple-strike. Two of them came easily: Mohammad Hafeez carved one straight to sweeper cover and Abdul Razzaq, who struggled in his brief stay, played down the wrong line and lost his off stump. In between those dismissals, Afridi counterattacked in his inimitable style with a breezy 25 off just seven balls. He muscled Botha for three sixes over long-on but fell trying another big hit.
Much depended on Akmal at this stage and he even looked in the mood to play a responsible knock. He didn't try any flashy hits and rotated the strike with singles but he exited just when he appeared to have settled down. It was a slow bouncer from Albie and Akmal connected well with his swat-pull but sent it straight to Botha who swallowed it at midwicket. With Misbah struggling to find his timing, Pakistan were struggling to reach 100. Albie and Rusty Theron slipped in a few full tosses that Misbah utilised to push the score to 119, a score that however proved insufficient.