at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
South Africa: 234/9 (50 overs)
Pakistan: 236/7 (48.4 overs)
Pakistan won by 3 wickets
Pakistan won a match full of drama and controversy by three wickets at Kingsmead on Thursday to level the ODI series 2-2 and set up a shoot-out at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Sunday.
It was a disappointing day for the home team as the Proteas also lost Graeme Smith for the decider with the recurrence of an ankle injury.
Curiously, the topsy-turvy profile of this series is the same as their last five-match contest, in which the teams exchanged victories before South Africa won the clincher in Dubai in 2010.
The 16 000 spectators lapped up a match that enjoyed its full share of drama, with Pakistan paceman Mohammad Irfan poised on a hat-trick after the first two balls of the South African innings, while Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez became the first international cricketer to be given out for obstructing the field.
The latter incident would have been a source of heated debate if Pakistan had lost.
In the second over of the Pakistan run chase, with the visitors needing a modest 235 for victory, Hafeez turned late for a second run, swerving from the edge of the pitch to the centre as he sprinted for the bowler’s end.
It was then that he was hit by AB de Villiers’s throw.
The South Africans appealed, and third umpire Billy Bowden gave Hafeez his marching orders.
Law 37 states that if a batsman changes direction, thereby obstructing a fielder’s attempt to run him out, he should be given out.
Despite the setback, man of the match Misbah-ul-Haq and opener Imran Farhat calmly put together a partnership of 153 in 189 balls.
But the visitors would not have been Pakistan if they hadn’t stumbled momentarily.
Misbah and Shahid Afridi both got out unnecessarily in the 42nd over, bowled by Robin Peterson, before Farhat was superbly caught by Farhaan Behardien.
Although the possibility of catastrophe loomed, Pakistan crawled over the line courtesy of a ragged penultimate over bowled by Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
One of the biggest surprises was AB de Villiers’s decision to bat first, contradicting former captain Shaun Pollock’s dictum that you should field first in a day game and bat first in a day-night match.
As it turned out, there was some moisture in the pitch in the morning which made fast scoring harder for the South Africans, while the strip became a belter in the afternoon.
The match couldn’t have started more dramatically, with Pakistani skyscraper Irfan getting rid of Hashim Amla and Colin Ingram with the first balls of the day. The first slanted across Amla, drawing an edge as he pushed forward, while the second, a yorker, just held its line and ripped out Ingram’s off-stump.
De Villiers prevented the hat-trick and went on to figure prominently in a fine revival, featuring in a 115-run partnership with David Miller.
De Villiers was forced to work hard for his runs against a disciplined Pakistani attack that reduced the Proteas to a disastrous 38/4 before Miller joined his captain.
The Dolphins left-hander knew that he was in the last-chance saloon – at least as far as inclusion in the Champions Trophy squad is concerned – when he came to the wicket.
He started cautiously, but gradually grew in confidence.
He had some fortune – including a dropped catch by Farhat at midwicket when he was on nine – but quickly grew in confidence to strike seven splendid fours before falling leg before to Saeed Ajmal.
The masterful off-spinner was also responsible for dismissing De Villiers, controversially adjudged caught behind while attempting to sweep.
Pakistan’s innings progressed much like South Africa’s, with early wickets leaving them on 33/3 at one stage.
But Misbah and Farhat knew that the modest victory target meant they had time to effect a recovery, and they played sensible cricket.
Misbah changed gears in the 27th over when he smashed part-time leg-spinner Ingram for two sixes and a four, setting up what seemed to be a comfortable win.
It didn’t quite turn out that way, but Pakistan did just enough to win.