Sharjah - The Proteas pulled off a sensational one-run victory over Pakistan at Sharjah on Wednesday to go 1-0 up in the five-match ODI series.
It was the fourth time that the Proteas had won by such a narrow margin, the last occasion being when Charl Langeveldt took a hat trick against the West Indies at Bridgetown in 2005.
On this occasion the Proteas looked easily out of the picture as Pakistan needed 19 runs for victory with six wickets and 55 balls in hand at one stage. But they proceeded to lose their last six wickets for 17 runs off 31 balls.
“This was a fantastic performance,” Proteas captain AB de Villliers said post-match.
“I always had a feeling if we nicked a wicket or two with even 19 runs needed for a Pakistan win we would do the impossible.”
This was largely the result of the combined efforts of Imran Tahir and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who took two wickets between them off successive deliveries, and in all three wickets off eight balls with Tsotsobe being on a hat trick at that stage.
That opened the way to the tail and the innings was polished off by the combined efforts of Imran Tahir (3/45) and Morné Morkel.
The match had a finish of incredible tension as the Proteas used up their review and also had a stumping attempt referred in Tahir’s final over to last man Mohammed Irfan.
But the finishing efforts of the Proteas would not have been possible without the all-round form of Man-of-the-Match Wayne Parnell.
His maiden ODI half-century (56 off 70 balls) enabled the Proteas to recover from 129/8 to 183 all out. His partnership of 52 for the ninth-wicket with Tsotsobe (a career-best 16 not out off 42 balls) was a South African record against Pakistan and also a ground record for Sharjah.
Parnell then went on to take three of the first four wickets to fall in the Pakistan innings, including the key one of their captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, to complete a superb all-round performance.
Tsotsobe deserves full credit for the way he supported Parnell and kept up his end.
The disappointment for the Proteas will have been their disappointing batting performance that saw them lose their first five wickets inside 19 overs. Saeed Ajmal did the major damage, having figures of 3/7 at one stage, and he and Shahid Afridi finished with combined figures of 7/67.
“I have to admit our batting let us down but David (Miller) and Wayne pulled it out for us with that stand at a crucial time,” De Villiers said. “This was a great team effort, everyone played as a unit even though our batsmen did not perform as well as I had expected.”
Pakistan lost opener Nasir Jamshed (nought) early, but Ahmed Shehzad (58) and Mohammad Hafeez (28) shared a 71-run stand for the second wicket to stablise the run-chase.
Even when Hafeez fell, Pakistan never looked in trouble as Misbah (31) and Shehzad took Pakistan to 135 when the innings started to fall apart when Misbah dismissed by Parnell.
The Pakistan skipper hit three fours off 49 balls. When on 28 he reached 4 000 one-day runs with a flurry of boundaries off Tahir. He became the 13th Pakistani batsmen to reach the milestone in his 129th match.
It was Shehzad who set the tone for a successful chase, hitting five boundaries in his 92-ball innings.
But once Shehzad and Misbah fell, South Africa sensed an unexpected victory as batsmen fell one after the other. Pakistan captain Misbah was disappointed at losing when victory seemed certain.
“We could not handle the pressure, some relaxed shots that cost us the match,” Misbah said.
“Our focus should be to be there till the last run is scored, the batting spoiled the party. We have to forget this game and improve for the next one.”
The win gives South Africa a 1-0 lead in the five-match series with the second match in Dubai on Friday.