Another day, another batting collapse from Pakistan. They were shot out for 120 and it was too little to defend even for their talented bowling attack. Their spinners posed a brief threat but South Africa shut them out to seal a 2-0 series win. Graeme Smith’s 38 wasn’t a fluent effort but he fought on to push South Africa close before Colin Ingram and JP Duminy applied the final touches.
When a struggling Smith was stumped off Saeed Ajmal, South Africa needed 53 from 40 balls, raising the possibility of an improbable twist in the tale. Ajmal had 3.4 overs left in his spell and there were two new batsmen in the middle but Ingram killed the contest with admirable coolness. He pulled Umar Gul for four before collecting three boundaries off Shoaib Akthar in the 17th over – a smashed six over long-on and two fours dragged to square-leg – to push South Africa ahead in the chase. He fell, holing out to long-on, but Duminy stayed put till the end.
Nothing went right from the start for Pakistan. Shahzaib Hasan continued to be a walking wicket and his exit, to an ugly slog across the line, opened the floodgates. Imran Farhat, who was bowled going for an over-ambitious heave, left one wondering whether the selectors were being too harsh on Imran Nazir. Like yesterday, it was Lonwabo Tsotsobe who removed the openers.
Again there was no middle-order revival. Mohammad Hafeez averages just 20.01 from 53 ODIs and 16.53 from 17 Twenty20s. Today was yet another day where he played a couple of pretty shots before combusting. He was caught at the crease, pondering whether to cut or steer, and lost his stumps before he could make up his mind. Umar Akmal ran himself out following a mix-up with Misbah-ul-Haq, and Shahid Afridi scooped Rusty Theron to deep point. Abdul Razzaq improved on his performance from yesterday – he swung a couple of sixes – but tapped a full toss straight to mid-off.
It was left to Misbah to push Pakistan over 100. It was another one of his meandering knocks that seemed to go nowhere until the last couple of overs when he showed some intent. Like yesterday, he initially struggled to find his timing but fought on to hold one end up. He went for the big shots in the end – there was a neat six over wide long-on, hit on a bent knee, and a shuffled swat to the backward square-leg boundary – but it was too little and too late.
It was difficult to rate South Africa’s bowling in this context. Did Pakistan’s shoddy batting display make the bowling look better than it was? It would be unfair, though, to not credit them for their discipline. Tsotsobe punctuated his natural left-armer’s angle with the ones that straightened to collect early wickets, Johan Botha, as ever, strangled the run-flow in the middle overs with his variations, and Theron enhanced his reputation as a death-over specialist with three wickets in the last over. Pakistan’s bowlers again attempted the improbable but it was a bridge too far to cross.