LONDON: Pakistan clung to slim hopes of making the Cricket World Cup semifinals and ended South Africa’s chances in a 49-run thumping victory at Lord’s on Sunday.
Pakistan needed the win more, as it had a game in hand and required fewer other results going its way, and delivered an energetic, enthusiastic performance before an equally passionate crowd heavily in its favour.
After losing narrowly to New Zealand on Wednesday, South Africa appeared emotionally spent, ready to trudge home in a largely downbeat display. Pakistan was conceded 308-7, and South Africa’s batting struggles were underlined again when it petered out on 259-9.
Pakistan’s second win in six matches kept it in the playoffs hunt, three points behind England, with unbeaten New Zealand next in its sights on Wednesday.
“We are alive and kicking, and when we play our best game we beat anybody,” coach Mickey Arthur said.
The Proteas slumped to a fifth defeat and a washout in seven matches. With two matches to go, their misery is officially complete, beside winless Afghanistan. Though this is the worst-affected World Cup because of rain, nothing has been damper than the performances from South Africa, which has failed to make the playoffs for only the second time.
“We are not playing great cricket,” captain Faf du Plessis said. “The guys are playing with low confidence, and therefore making more mistakes.
“It’s becoming where it’s a little bit embarrassing.
“The biggest downside is we are not doing ourselves justice as a team. We are letting ourselves down with the skill that is in that dressing room.”
The match was redemption of sorts for Pakistan batsman Haris Sohail, spinner Shadab Khan, and medium-pacer Shaheen Afridi.
Haris scored his first two ODI centuries in March against Australia, but so-so scores in May in the England series doomed him to only one bat in the World Cup. He made 8 in a total of 105 against the West Indies. Only after Shoaib Malik made 8 across three matches was Haris recalled, and he took his chance at Lord’s.
Haris featured in key partnerships of 81 with Babar Azam and 71 with Imad Wasim. He was the closest to scoring the first century by either team at this World Cup, but he couldn’t get the strike back at the death and was out for 89 trying to slog the penultimate ball, his 59th of a superb innings that included three sixes and nine boundaries.
Pakistan started the 40th over on 217-3 and Haris ensured a challenging total was set.
“Haris Sohail was hungry to play, and the way he batted was a turning point,” captain Sarfaraz Ahmed said. “You see (England’s) Jos Buttler play that type of innings so the way he played was fantastic.”
Given a great total to defend — South Africa failed to challenge 311 by England and 330 by Bangladesh in its first two matches — Shadab grabbed three or more wickets for only the second time in a year.
The only specialist spinner in Pakistan’s squad missed the England series in May because of a virus. He was pounded by England and India and had only two wickets in the tournament, but rewarded the selectors’ perseverance. Shadab dismissed Quinton de Kock on 47 to ruin South Africa’s longest partnership of 87 with du Plessis, and last recognized batsmen Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen.
Shaheen was the only other change by Pakistan after losing to India last weekend, in for Hasan Ali. Shaheen claimed 2-70 in his one previous appearance, while Pakistan ran out of patience with Hasan, 2-256 across four matches. Shaheen knocked over David Miller’s middle stump on 31 in the 41st over.
Aided by thin cloud cover, fast bowler Mohammad Amir trapped Hashim Amla with his first ball in the second over and got a top edge out from du Plessis in the 30th. The two wickets gave Amir 15, tying Mitchell Starc and Jofra Archer at the top of the tournament wickets list.
“It was a complete bowling effort,” Sarfaraz said. “Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi all did their bit. That’s what has been missing in previous matches.”
South Africa’s run chase faded after du Plessis’ careful innings of 63 from 79 balls was undone by Amir at 136-4. Du Plessis bemoaned before the match his batsmen’s failure to rack big scores, including himself. This was only his second half-century of the tournament. No South African has made a century.
After du Plessis, all that was left was mopping up, and the venerable Wahab Riaz, who suffered dropped catches twice in an over, came back to bowl three tailenders. Andile Phehlukwayo was not out 46.
Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi were also flayed when they opened the bowling for South Africa. Pakistan openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq raced out of the blocks to share 81 in 15 overs.
Both openers fell for 44 each to legspinner Imran Tahir. The pair made Tahir South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in World Cups with 39, one more than retired fast bowler Allan Donald.
Haris and Babar, who hit 69, were content to let Tahir bowl out his 10 overs, and wait for the pace bowlers. As against England, batting first worked out again.