Nov 062010

25 overs Pakistan 131 for 4 (Younis 37*, Afridi 0*) need 144 more runs to beat South Africa 274 for 6

South Africa struck back with crucial breakthroughs to put themselves in the driving seat to claim the one-day series after Pakistan had built a solid position in their chase. Mohammad Hafeez set the tone with an aggressive 42 before Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq put together a sensible partnership for the third wicket, but Shafiq was run out for 36 and Fawad Alam carved to cover as Pakistan tottered at 131 for 4.

The chase suffered a rocky start when Imran Farhat fell in the opening over, given out lbw to Morne Morkel after the bowler had switched to around the wicket. However, Farhat was a little unfortunate as replays showed the impact was outside off stump. Importantly, though, the top order didn’t go into their shell as was the case in the previous match when they were chasing a much smaller target.

Wayne Parnell shared the new ball on his recall in place of Lonwabo Tsotsobe, but struggled for a consistent line and Dale Steyn was introduced in the sixth over. The battle was immediately joined as his first ball beat Younis Khan’s outside edge before Hafeez played a crunching pull and sweet drive to take advantage of Steyn’s extra pace.

It was fascinating viewing as Steyn worked through the gears in his first international of the season, but when Hafeez played a perfect square drive to collect another boundary it looked as though the batsman was winning the contest. Then, three balls later, Steyn had his revenge when Hafeez tried to whip a straight delivery through the leg side and was comfortably leg before.

At least Hafeez had put Pakistan in touch with the required rate which meant Younis and Shafiq could afford to switch into accumulation mode as the field was set back after the Powerplays. Shafiq’s role was vital as he ensured the pressure didn’t build on Younis by collecting useful boundaries with a pull of Jacques Kallis and a paddle against Johan Botha.

Progress was steady for Pakistan and a few furrowed brows were forming among the South Africans when Parnell produced a direct hit from mid-on to catch Shafiq short at the non-striker’s end. There should have been another run out moments later but, in a fumble to almost match the Michael Clarke-Shane Watson mess up earlier in the day in Sydney, Botha couldn’t gather a regulation take at the stumps with Fawad Alam halfway down the pitch.

However, it didn’t prove expensive as in the next over Fawad spooned a soft drive although this match could still turn into another telling examination for South Africa’s under pressure death bowling.

South Africa 274 for 6 (Smith 92, de Villiers 49) v Pakistan

Graeme Smith enjoyed a successful return to the South Africa line-up following his hand injury, hitting 92 in the fourth one-day international against Pakistan in Dubai as his team reached a challenging 274 for 6. AB de Villiers contributed a laborious 49, failing to reach the boundary but forming an important 94-run stand with his captain, before Johan Botha gave the innings a late surge with 28 off 15 balls.

Despite the strong foundation laid by Smith it looked as though South Africa would fall short of expectations. They saved the batting Powerplay for the final five overs of the innings but Wahab Riaz made important blows as he yorked JP Duminy and David Miller with successive deliveries. However, Botha responded with a string of clever boundaries including two reverse sweeps off Mohammad Hafeez and a brace of scoops over short fine-leg against Wahab. Colin Ingram, who was dropped on 3 and 12, then carved the final ball of the innings to the deep point boundary to finish unbeaten on 27.

Smith was forced to retire hurt in the opening one-day international in Abu Dhabi and although x-rays revealed no broken bones he remained on the sidelines for the previous two games of the series. He was soon back into the swing of things, though, with an off-side boundary in the second over and looked confident during a 57-ball half-century.

He and Hashim Amla gave South Africa a positive start as they aimed to wrap up the series with a match to spare having held on for a nervous two-run victory in the third match. However, Shoaib Akhtar continued to pick up vital wickets when Amla, South Africa’s in-form batsman and fresh from a magnificent 119 three days ago, top-edged a pull to square leg.

Pakistan did well to restrict the scoring rate and Jacques Kallis tried to break the shackles by slog-sweeping Hafeez over midwicket but could only pick out the fielder on the boundary. Immediately following Kallis’s departure, Smith took three boundaries off Wahab’s third over – including two deft glides to third man – as he hurried towards his fifty.

de Villiers found scoring much harder work, as he did in the last match before being controversially given out stumped by the third umpire, and struggled to the beat the field against the spinners including the recalled left-armer Abdur Rehman. However, the good work from Pakistan’s bowlers wasn’t always backed up with a number of fumbles in the outfield. It’s no surprise the run-out count for the series is 6-2 in South Africa’s favour.

Hafeez again showed his partnership-breaking qualities when he ended the 94-run third-wicket stand by trapping Smith lbw as the South Africa captain missed his leg-side tuck. The boundaries then dried up and de Villiers couldn’t find the rope once during a 70-ball stay before driving Shoaib to point at the start of the final 10 overs. Surprisingly, Shoaib was left one over short of bowling out his full quota.

Smith’s return to the line-up was one of three changes for South Africa who also welcomed back Dale Steyn for his first match of the tour while Wayne Parnell, the left-arm quick, returned with Lonwabo Tsotsobe ruled out with a back spasm. The slightly surprising decision was to omit Rusty Theron after he bowled the vital last over in the previous match to secure South Africa’s narrow victory. Their death bowling could well come under pressure again, but Pakistan need their misfiring top order to perform.

 Posted by at 12:20 am

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