After the bowlers, led by Vernon Philander, restricted Pakistan to a modest 179, South Africa was in a spot of bother at 124 for 5 before AB de Villiers (48 not out) and Ryan McLaren (17) forged a 40-run stand to put South Africa on the road to victory.
Saeed Ajmal foxed McLaren with South Africa needing 16 runs, but that only proved to be a minor roadblock as de Villiers’ composure made the difference in the end. Wayne Parnell, who replaced Dale Steyn, played a crisp cover drive to finish off the match with 68 balls to spare.
De Villiers, who made 74 off 45 balls in South Africa’s one-run loss in the second ODI in Port Elizabeth, arrested a middle-order wobble with a cautious approach, scoring just three boundaries during his 68-ball vigil. He was complemented by McLaren, who shrugged off any signs of pressure by blunting the bowlers after Henry Davids (7) and JP Duminy (16) fell to the spinners.
Earlier, Philander, recently recalled to the one-day side after starring for the Test team, picked up three wickets including the prized scalp of Ahmed Shehzad, the centurion from the previous match, for a duck as Pakistan weas pegged right at the outset. It took the composed approach of Misbah-Ul Haq, the captain, to repair the damage caused by the seamers.
Misbah’s 107-ball 79 was the lone bright spark in an ordinary batting show by Pakistan, who was without Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Shahid Afrtidi and Junaid Khan. At 97 for 7, Pakistan was in danger of being bowled out well inside its quota of overs, but for Misbah’s defiance.
Misbah added 82 valuable runs with the last three batsmen to lift Pakistan to 179, a far from ideal total on a good batting surface. On the day, the late was just a small consolation. The result notwithstanding, Pakistan, who took the series 2-1, had reasons to celebrate as it was its first bilateral ODI series win over South Africa.