October 27, 2010

South Africa draw first blood unconvincingly


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Can you imagine chasing a target of exactly run a ball for the entire length of a T20innings on the flattest of pitches in conditions near perfect for batting with so much of hassles and uncertainties?

The South Africans certainly won the first Twenty20 International against Pakistan by six wickets in the end with quite a few deliveries left in Abhu Dhabi on October 26 but it wasn’t the kind of chase that would have lifted their spirits.

The only way Pakistan could have won the match, after being dismissed for 119, was to bowl South Africa out. That looked very much a possibility when South Africa had crashed to 26 for three after 5.1 overs.

It was really amazing to find the South African top-order looking like novices against a bowling attack that wasn’t high in confidence either. Shoaib Akhtar, whose fitness always remains a cause of concern, was spearheading the attack after sometime and Abdul Razzaq was entrusted with the new ball a bit surprisingly.

Neither of them would have been operating with the new ball if Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer had been there. Yet the credit goes to the South African batsmen to have kept the contest alive until the very end.

If the likes of Graeme Smith, Loots Bosman and A B de Villiers were found demanding in conditions devoid of any pressure then one can understand what their fate could be in a closer or more significant match.

That explains why the South Africans have been proving as chokers in nearly every major event. They have had a better record as far as bilateral series are concerned but the uncertain manner in which they overcame Pakistan while chasing the easiest of targets leaves a question mark about their abilities.

The pace of Lonwabo Tsotsobe and the spin of Johan Botha combined excellently to send Pakistan crashing to 119 all out inside 20 overs. It’s not often that any team gets bowled out in T20 game but you can never rule out such possibilities when experimentations are being carried out rather senselessly.

Pakistan’s batting has let them down on so many occasions and the kind of combination they fielded in the opening game there’s little doubt that a lot needs to be done to enhance their efficiency.

South Africa remained on top of the Pakistan batsmen and even Shahid Afridi’s typically agricultural shots didn’t derail them. The returning Misbah-ul-Haq struggled to get his timing right and there was not much he could have done against a balanced and potent bowling attack.

The match was won and lost in the first session and there were very few people who thought in terms of Pakistan staging a comeback. The failure of Smith, Bosman and de Villiers prevented the match from becoming a totally one-sided affair.

The 66-run fourth wicket partnership between Colin Ingram and JP Duminy brought the South Africans back in control and even the dismissal of the latter couldn’t change the course of the proceedings.

1 comment

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