Bowlers deliver equaliser for Pakistan

South Africa batsmen befuddled by spin trio of Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez, fall for 143 in second ODI
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Pakistan bounced back in the most emphatic fashion from its horror defeat to South Africa in the first of five One-Day Internationals with a convincing 66-run win in the second match in Dubai on Friday (November 1), and may well have exorcised some demons from the first game in Sharjah two days ago.
 
Having batted first this time and been outperformed to produce a modest total of just 209 all out, Pakistan repeated its stranglehold on South Africa’s top order with spin, once again, being too good for the opposition, who was bowled out for just 143 in 40.4 overs.
 
South Africa crashed to 83 for 6 in its reply before Wayne Parnell, Wednesday’s batting hero, briefly threatened a recovery with a trio of boundaries in his 21 off 22 balls before the inevitable capitulation.
 
Mohammad Irfan and Sohail Tanvir, the seamers, were outstanding with the new ball and Irfan was even better with his return spells, removing Parnell and Morne Morkel to all but clinch victory.
 
South Africa’s ultra-cautious approach up front was understandable, but it was never able to move from second gear against professorial spin from Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal. The longer the batsmen waited for an error, the more likely it was going to come from themselves rather than the bowlers.
 
Hafeez and Ajmal provided the noose – 40 runs from 18 overs with three wickets – while Shahid Afridi cut the executioner’s rope with 3 for 26.
 
Graeme Smith was lbw playing the sweep, and AB de Villiers edged Afridi’s first ball to the wicketkeeper. Faf du Plessis continued an agonising spell of poor form and confidence with 12 from 32 balls before Afridi ended his pain by hitting the pads in front.
 
It had all seemed so unlikely during the first innings, in which the South Africans produced a controlled and skilful performance with the ball, given the perfect, morale-boosting start in the third over when Lonwabo Tsotsobe held a stunning, diving catch at fine leg after Nasir Jamshed had made a mess of a Morkel bouncer.
 
A promising rebuild ended when a Mohammad Hafeez ‘crease shuffle’ confused himself far more than Ryan McLaren, the bowler. McLaren later foxed Misbah-ul-Haq into slugging a slower ball to deep midwicket to undo the next promising stand.
 
Ahmed Shehzad’s scoring rate is a throwback to a bygone era of limited-overs cricket but Pakistan have been grateful more often than not for his cautious progress in recent times – provided he stays until the end. This time he did not, chipping a return catch to Imran Tahir for 58 from 85 deliveries.
 
Two promising top-order partnerships had been ended and, with overs running out, it was all just bits and pieces thereafter. McLaren has more variations than most seamers in world cricket, and his slower-ball bouncer which resulted in Umar Amin gloving a catch to de Villiers was a bowler’s classic.
 
Umar Akmal smashed a short ball from Morkel straight to cover where Colin Ingram did well to keep all fingers intact, never mind take the catch, but Afridi was still there with the final half dozen overs to go.
 
Afridi walloped four fours to the unrestrained glee of the 20,000-plus crowd but mistimed a full toss to mid-off to depart for 26 with three overs remaining, just when he might have made a significant difference to the total.
 
McLaren and Morkel were outstanding with a combined analysis of 7 for 72 but, flying under the radar and being treated with utmost respect, the bowler of the innings may well have been Tahir who dismissed Shehzad, the top scorer, at a cost of just 28 runs in ten overs.
 
But the bowlers were let down yet again by the batsmen and Pakistan left the field in the full and undisputed knowledge that it was the better team. Just as it could have done after the first game, except it lost in the final six overs after having dominated the preceding 90.

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