Proteas found it difficult to start with the bat against Pakistan, says centurion Rassie Van der Dussen
Besides the brilliance of Babar Azam, South Africa were also left rueing an error strewn opening with the bat, which led to a three wicket defeat in the first One-Day International against Pakistan at SuperSport Park on Friday.
South Africa were grateful to Rassie van der Dussen for a maiden international century, that got them to a competitive total of 273/6, but the Pakistan captain Babar Azam was magnificent in making 103 off 104 balls, to guide his side to victory despite the mayhem that ensued in the latter stages.
South Africa slumped to 55/4 in the 15th over, at which point Van der Dussen and David Miller, put on a 116-run fifth wicket stand, that rescued the innings. The pitch, described by Van der Dussen as “sticky” made batting hard initially. “The pitch retained moisture and that allows the ball to sit up, it’s a bit two paced and it is difficult to hit through the line. It is a difficult pitch to come in on and hit gaps straight away,” said Van der Dussen.
Proteas openers, Aiden Markram, playing his first ODI since the 2019 World Cup, and Quinton de Kock recently deposed as captain, thought they’d gotten to grips with the surface after putting on 34 for the first wicket with both hitting some delightful boundaries.
But Pakistan’s bowlers changed their lengths, hitting the pitch harder, and making it ‘stick’ in the surface, with Shaheen Shah Afridi dismissing both Proteas openers in the seventh over. “I told the bowlers to bowl on hard lengths and we got some swing as well. We got back to back wickets and that helped us in restricting them,” said Babar.
South Africa did well to get passed 250, with Van der Dussen’s first international hundred - in his 48th innings - the mainstay of the batting effort. He made 123 not out, off 134 balls hitting, 10 fours and two sixes. “Mostly relief,” said Van der Dussen in describing how he felt about reaching the landmark. “I’ve been playing for two and half years, and had a few chances to get to a hundred, but didn’t quite get there. As a player you want to perform under pressure, and we were under pressure early, I think it was a fair innings to get us to a competitive total.”
WATCH: "Mr Consistency" Rassie van der Dussen breaks his international century duck with a superb maiden ODI 100 in his 49th appearance for the #Proteas! 👏 @IOLsport @Rassie72 @OfficialCSA @cricfanaticsmag @GraemeSmith49 pic.twitter.com/fl4cVroxAc— Zaahier Adams (@ZaahierAdams) April 2, 2021
Babar’s performance was mesmerising. The Pakistan skipper’s 13th century contained some exquisite strokeplay and he tore the South African attack apart. “He played some unbelievable shots, some of those drives were amazing. It was a pleasure to be at the other end to watch it,” said Pakistan’s opener Imam ul-Haq. Imam and Babar shared a partnership of 177 for the second wicket, with Imam making 70.
Anrich Nortje picked up four wickets in his second five over spell, to wrench the advantage from Pakistan’s hands, and make for a nervous final five overs. “The plan was to bowl more Test lengths, Lungi and KG started brilliantly,” said Van der Dussen. “At the Highveld however, the pitch gets harder and flatter and then it gets really difficult to defend...a lot of credit has to go to the bowlers. I’ve played many games here where bowling sides have been in that situation, a required rate of six, wickets in hand, you normally get home with 5 to 6 overs to spare. The spirit the bowlers showed to fight back was brilliant to see.”