Laws of cricket, version II

1: When not to run
(i) You have hit the ball straight back to the bowler and they have a clear path to the stumps.
(ii) You've pushed the ball to a fielder not hard enough to test them but gently, so the pick up and throw is routine.
(iii) Your partner has been slow to respond, even if you think you can make it to the other side.

2: When not to panic in a chase
(i) You are scoring above the required run rate, have wickets in hand and overs to bat out. In other words, when the game is under control.
(ii) You lose a set batsman but there is another equally well-set one at the other end.
(iii) You lose more wickets in a clump but there are still players who can take you over the line.

South Africa women broke all but the last of those in their tense win over Pakistan in their World Cup opener and thank goodness for it. In the same weekend, the men squandered a third chance to claim a trophy on this tour and the A side put on a (non)show of spectacular ineptitude. If the women had gone the same way, this summer in the UK could become very long for all the wrong reasons. But the women provided some pleasure amid the panic, a lot of it self-inflicted.

Though South Africa had never successfully chased a total in excess of 200 at a World Cup, this pursuit of 207 should have been straightforward, especially at 113 without loss by the halfway stage. Then, they unravelled and lost 7 for 64, including three run-outs, to leave themselves in danger of defeat.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. And it is as inexplicable now as it was two weeks ago at The Oval when the men were knocked out of the Champions Trophy by India. Something makes South African cricketers do things they otherwise wouldn't at major tournaments.

Dane van Niekerk, guilty of the most needless of the run-outs after breaking rule 1 (i), admitted she was "nervous" because of the quality of Pakistan's attack. With four spinners turning the screws and the history of South Africans and slower bowling it is understandable some of those demons may have been haunting her. But, as van Niekerk set off for the run that never was, there was someone whose anger was starting to eclipse her anxiety.

"I didn't want to put on any greens after I finished bowling. All the bowlers said its time the batters get a little clinical," Shabnim Ismail said afterwards. "Seeing the middle-order collapse was nerve-wracking for the bowlers coming at the end. We laid the foundation and we thought we were clinical and we started off well with the bat. I actually started swearing in the change room because I was so nervous."

And then, Ismail was most needed, with the situation at its most desperate. South Africa needed 30 from 30, usually considered gettable, but in a match were the run rate had hardly crept over five an over, a tough ask. Tougher still because Ismail's own team-mates had engineered this situation. When they needed 64 of 86 balls, one of the pillars of their line-up, Marizanne Kapp, broke rule 1 (ii) after Laura Wolvaardt had broken rule 1 (iii) five overs before. But Ismail applied rule 2 (iii) and held her nerve.

"I told myself if the wickets start tumbling, let's not crumble at the back end like we always do. I said to myself, 'I am confident, I back my skill and the preparation that has been done.'"

Ismail and Suné Luus, better known for her legspin but with six ODI fifties to her name, "kept each other calm" and then Ismail let loose to plunder 16 runs off the final over and seal the deal. Ismail felt the finish would clear the cobwebs for the rest of the side. "This was a confidence booster for us," she said. "Hopefully all the nerves are out. Our coach always tells us bowlers to hit balls because you never know what can happen and this was hopefully a bit of a wake-up call for the batters. We've been in these situations before but now we are crossing the line."

All of South African cricket wants to be able to say that but the evidence of this UK trip suggests the line continues to move. And, each time, its panic that pushes it further.

What that really means is that the individual performances South Africa should celebrate can get lost in the collective assessment. But they still deserve a mention. South Africa's change bowlers Ayabonga Khaka and Moseline Daniels did a tidy job, Kapp continually threatened, Ismail was aggressive at the end and the openers gave the team a dream start. Lizelle Lee is a powerful, clean hitter, who could clear boundaries even in the men's game, while Wolvaardt's off-side play is a joy to watch. They have the ingredients, they have to remove the angst.

Perhaps a new generation will. Someone like Wolvaardt, who is only 18-years-old. Her captain van Niekerk praised for having the "head of a 30-year-old". After completing her schooling at the end of this year, Wolvaardt hopes to embark on a medical career. Perhaps she will find some preventative measures for panic.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent