London: South Africa had a reputation of being chokers, but in this World Cup they have proved to be stumblers too. Surrendering to Pakistan by 49 they have stumbled out of the World Cup.
It was a battle between ninth placed Pakistan versus eighth placed South Africa at the Lord’s ground. Pakistan by winning has pushed South Africa to the ninth slot, just above Afghanistan. South Africa’s performance in this tournament had been pitiful and they posed no threat to any of the teams.
Pakistan next plays New Zealand on Wednesday. If they win their last three matches, they could still sneak into the semi-final ahead of England or even New Zealand.
Pakistan today dropped six catches, with Mohammad Amir leading the count with three.
Despite all the lives, the South African batsmen failed to reach the target. Pakistan had posted 308 for 7 through Haris Sohail’s breezy 89, Babar Azam’s 69 and 44 runs each from openers Imam Ul Haq and Fakhar Zaman.
In fact, South Africans played neither spin nor pace with confidence. Leg spinner Shadab Khan bagged 3 for 50 while pacer Amir bagged 2 for 49 . Wahab Riaz quickened their end with 3 for 46.
South African Skipper Faf Du Plessis hit a fighting 63 after putting on 87 runs in 18.1 overs with opener Quinton De Kock (47). But then, from 96 for 1 they slipped to 136 for 4. It was a pitch that demanded patience, and the South Africans did not seem to have that today.
Hashim Amla got trapped leg before by Amir, and it would have been two wickets down had Wahab Riaz taken an easy catch from De Kock off Hafeez at mid-on for a duck. Faf Du Plessis escaped being caught at 18 by a flying Shadab Khan off Afridi.
The South African slide began from the moment De Kock slog swept Shadab to Haq at deep mid-wicket. Shadab. who is a prodigious turner of the ball, did not turn the ball to Makram and it kept very low for him. Some poor batting by the South Africans let the Pakistan bowlers get into a rhythm. At the halfway mark they needed 203 from 25 overs. Majority of the fans who were Pakistanis did a Mexican wave and cheered their bowlers to go for the kill.
Pakistan won the toss and their openers got off to a good start till a Pakistan born Imran Tahir put the brakes on them. The opening partnership of 81 in 14.5 overs saw Fakhar Zaman and Imam Ul Haq unleash their strokes. Zaman fell for 44 off 50 balls playing a silly scoop shot, refusing to respect Tahir, who has learned the art of spin from his home country before migrating to South Africa.
Haq too fell at 44 to Tahir, who despite being the oldest man in the tournament at 40, took an agile one-handed stunning return catch. This wicket earned him the honour of becoming South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in the World Cup beating pacer Allan Donalds mark of 38 wickets. He celebrated the moment with a 200m dash, and the force with which he spread his arms in delight could have injured the fielders who came to celebrate around him. Tahir had earlier taken a stunning catch at deep mid-wicket of Zaman, but the umpires ruled it not out, which had him furious. Captain Du Plessis had to stop him from talking to the umpires.
When it looked like the experienced Mohammad Hafeez would play a good inning he fell for 20, leg before to a delivery from Aiden Markram. Almost everyone expected Azam to get his century since he had reached his half-century in 61 balls. Unfortunately, he lofted Andile Phehliukwayo to deep cover, but by then had added 81 runs in 11.2 overs for the fourth wicket with Haris Sohail.
After Azam left, it was Sohail’s show all the way. With Imad Wasim on 10, Sohail registered the second fastest half-century partnership of this World Cup in 26 balls. Pakistan added 71 runs in 6.4 overs.