Pakistan punished South Africa with a comprehensive victory
time for congratulations and commiserations for teams who are known for different types of skills and attitude. On this night as Pakistan brushed aside South Africa with a touch of disdain, winning by 48 runs, a transition was on. Tonight, SA became the second team after Afghanistan to exit all chances of reckoning in the race for the Cup.
SA have lost five of their seven games, including to India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan -- all Asian teams. Africa’s lone rep is out of the competition. The old colonizers are still tall -- England, Australia, and New Zealand -- but vulnerabilities are creeping in. No one seems invincible as the game pushes on towards the semis.
Pakistan was ready, SA not
Pakistan came better prepared compared to any previous match and were more relaxed too. It played knowing South Africa had begun as a contender but had now moved to the ICU. Pakistan were 81/1, which was a good start and through it did stutter, they were decent enough to reach 309. Babar Azam scored 69 and Haris Sohail (who was man of the match on his Cup debut) scored 89 while others reached the 40s. SA bowling was ineffective. It was largely left to Pakistan to decide how far they wanted to go.
In return, SA just never got started. Amla went for two and showed the way. Others followed. Faf got 63, the only player to cross 50 as SA imploded. When it lost to Bangladesh, it whined that the top players were missing.
But as yesterday showed, they couldn’t have made much difference to a team ready to roll over and die. The run rate never rose high enough to make Pakistan nervous and although they missed five or six catches, Pakistan punished them with a comprehensive defeat.
Shedding the “unpredictability” tag
Pakistan has improved its chances steadily as the days have gone and now share the same points -- though one spot below due to its run rate -- as Bangladesh. Pakistan is steadier, banishing the ghost of Imran Khan’s 1992 triumph and the unpredictability tag it won. Proudly worn for long, it has hurt more than helped.
Today was a good example of what a team prepared to win can achieve. Individual fireworks are great for the crowd to watch -- like Braithwaite against NZ. It’s great to watch but crisis cricket never wins tournaments. Consistency wins most which is why it’s called so. Pakistan is maturing as it walks into the more sober climes of mature cricket.
Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist and researcher.