South Africa’s victory against Pakistan in a thrilling match that ended in a solitary wicket in Chennai on Friday marked a significant first step towards them losing the reputation of the perpetual chokers. South Africa hasn’t defeated Pakistan in a World Cup since the 1999 tournament, and Babar Azam’s team’s four straight losses are a record for the nation. Pakistan has four points from six games, and even if they win all three, their chances of making it to the round of sixteen are fewer than five percent.
Thanks to an inspired burst of excellent pace bowling from Shaheen Shah Afridi (3/45) and Haris Rauf (2/62) Proteas collapsed from 235 for 5 to 260 for 9, making what appeared to be an easy chase of 271. This game turned out to be the tightest of the tournament.
But in 47.2 overs, Keshav Maharaj (7 not out) and Tabraiz Shamsi (4 not out) added the 11 most significant runs of their careers to seal a remarkable victory and move the side to the top of the points table with 10 points.
The writing was on the wall as soon as Maharaj and keeper Mohammed Rizwan were on their haunches after Maharaj escaped a tight DRS appeal off Rauf’s delivery according to Umpires’ Call.
Mohammed Nawaz’s left-arm spin is an excuse for his sluggish bowling, and Maharaj let out a war cry after trapping it behind the unoccupied backward square leg for a boundary.
Babar can’t argue that his team scored at least 40 runs less than they could have on a decent batting ground, even though he would feel shortchanged when one of his pacers’ deliveries brushed Keshav Maharaj’s pads but was declared wide.
Aiden Markram (91 off 93 balls) demonstrated why he is so highly regarded with a strong hit, thus his captaincy was likewise lackluster. Markram was an equally adept accumulator and aggressor, capitalizing on the pace of Mohammed Wasim Junior and Rauf to rack up a lot of runs.
Iftikhar’s inside-out six during his off-break was a delight, and Quinton de Kock’s exciting start was also helpful. He gave Shaheen four boundaries, which did really pick up the pace.
With the exception of Markram, David Miller (who knocked 29 off 33 balls) and Marco Jansen (920 from 14 balls), who consistently found a way to hit sixes to go closer to the target, both made minor but significant contributions.
Usama Mir (2/45), the replacement for a player with a concussion, did take a few wickets but gave Pakistan plenty of easy runs.
Earlier, Pakistan’s batsmen wasted excellent starts to be bowled out for a below-par 270 after the losers elected to use the strip first. Captain Babar and Saud Shakeel both scored fifty earlier.
Pakistan chose to bat and was bowled in 46.4 overs despite Babar scoring 50 off 65 deliveries and Shakeel scoring 52 at a run-a-ball. Pakistan was unable to form enough partnerships and struggled in the latter stages of the game. 45 runs were scored off the final five wickets.
In just his second game, left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi shined with figures of four for sixty. Gerald Coetzee (2/42) also snapped two, and Marco Jansen (3/43) was excellent with the new ball.
Jansen started things off with a maiden over, taking out the first two wickets of Pakistan, Abdullah Shafique (9) and Imam-ul-Haq (12), as they fell to 38 for 2 in the seventh over.
If Jansen had held onto a caught and bowled opportunity for Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan might have been on third down in the same over.
Beginning the innings with a six off spinner Keshav Maharaj, Rizwan and Babar (50) put up a 48-run partnership.
Jansen gave him a fresh lease of life, but it was short-lived as speedster Coetzee sent him back to the pavilion in the 16th over after being caught behind, leaving the score at 86 for three.
Even though Coetzee persisted in limiting Pakistan’s score, they managed to reach their hundred by the twentieth over.
Before Iftikhar Ahmed (21) became the fourth man to be removed, holing out to Heinrich Klaasen off Shamsi in the 26th over, he and Babar contributed 43 for the fourth wicket.
Meanwhile, Babar reached his 31st ODI half-century, but shortly after reaching the milestone, he was dismissed by Shamsi in the 28th when an attempted sweep resulted in the ball taking just the slightest of knocks before Quinton de Kock gloved it.
The Proteas chose to have the review at the last minute, even though the umpire had initially declared them not out. This proved advantageous for them as Pakistan collapsed to 141 for five.
Then, Shakeel and Shadab (43) came together to create an 84-run combination that was desperately required to get their innings back on track. Pakistan was unable to take advantage of the platform as the team 200 quickly took the lead in the 37th over.