Chennai: South Africa and Pakistan generally sport the same colour of apparel — green — in limited-overs cricket. It’s no different this World Cup too with Pakistan opting for a darker hue and South Africa preferring a slightly lighter kind in comparison. Apart from the apparel, another thing that’s common between them is that they are an enigma.
Where games and tournament campaigns appear lost, Pakistan have this incredible ability to script a turnaround from nowhere and pull off a miracle few would have imagined. South Africa, on the other hand, possess the unique skill to self destruct from a position of great strength. The 29,000-odd crowd at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here and the cricketing world almost witnessed that unfold before South Africa stunningly held their composure in a humdinger to edge home by one wicket.
For nearly 70 per cent of the game, South Africa looked to be in total control of the game. After bowling out Pakistan for a below-par 270, they were moving along decently in the chase when they imploded in stunning fashion with the finish line in sight. Anchoring the chase beautifully despite wickets kept falling around him, Aiden Markram (91, 93b, 7×4, 3×6) departed in the 41st over while attempting a big shot that left South Africa in a spot at 250/7.
Pakistan, who needed to win to keep their semifinal hopes afloat following three straight defeats, made the full use of the lifeline as they bowled with great heart and character to reduce South Africa to 260/9. They applied the chokehold on South Africa but Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi held fort to eventually cross the line.With this win South Africa jumped to the top of the table with 10 points from 6 games while Pakistan stay sixth with 4 points from 6 games.
Earlier, South Africa bowled first for the second time this World Cup but their bowlers, using the pace and bounce at Chepauk to good effect, were right on the money as they bowled out the opposition for a fifth time. Marco Jansen, the bean-pole left-arm seamer measuring 6’9’’, kept asking difficult questions with his disconcerting bounce, Lungi Ngidi was fast and accurate and Gerald Coetzee kept delivering those sharp and nippy bouncers every now and then to keep the Pakistani batters always on check.
Left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, playing his second match of the World Cup proper and determined to make a statement, bowled accurately too, grabbing 4/60 to emerge as the surprise star. The disciplined bowling from both ends meant Pakistan, who don’t have a batter with the ability to throw caution to the winds, had to play the big shots moment they could spot a hittable ball. But sadly, they kept losing wickets whenever they attempted to settle for a below-par 270 all out in 46.4 overs.
Pakistan then needed something extraordinary from their bowlers if they had stop South Africa, whose batters have been in marauding form this World Cup. An inspiring spell at the start, a three-wicket burst in the middle or an excellent catch to lift the morale….Pakistan had to produce a spark that could reignite their campaign. They did so by picking wickets at regular intervals to entertain hopes of an upset but South Africa somehow managed to triumph.
(Published 27 October 2023, 17:07 IST)