DURBAN – The Proteas wanted to be under the cosh. They wanted to see what their middle-order could do, especially when required to dig them out of a hole. They also wanted to start and finish a game in Durban without looking to the heavens for most of the day.
That they ticked all these boxes yesterday, in a five-wicket victory to level the series, would have been a great source of relief for them. After an irritating defeat in Port Elizabeth, the Proteas got to Kingsmead with a clenched jaw.
They won the toss and bowled under beautiful skies, and then proceeded to bowl hard lengths. If they had cruised their way to defeat in the opening ODI, they were not about to make the same mistake in the second.
Kagiso Rabada took the new ball and hurried Imam ul-Haq into an ill hook. He popped it to Andile Phehlukwayo at wide mid-on. That was not to be Phehlukwayo’s last contribution. In an all-round display that would have done wonders for his confidence, as well as the team’s concerns, he enjoyed a career day.
Firstly, he took 4/22 with the ball to help restrict the Pakistanis to 203 all out.
Phehlukwayo had help in skittling the tourists. Tabraiz Shamsi, in for Imran Tahir, grabbed his opportunity. Though the Pakistan tail wagged, the left-arm wrist-spinner kept ripping it, and his reward was 3/56.
Rabada was all intensity and pace, snaring 2/35 in nine overs. The bowling all round was on a different level, and Pakistan were knocked off their stride by the efficiency.
Hasan Ali spared the visitors’ blushes with a fighting 59, with three sixes and five fours lifting his side beyond 200. Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed chipped in with 41 as the tourists tried to make a game of it.
There was an expectant crowd, with more than a sprinkling of Pakistan flags, the weather was festive, and the pitch decent. On another day, with a bit more restraint, Pakistan might have hoped to make at least 260 to give South Africa something to think about.
Even so, the Proteas top order made heavy weather of the total. Before the end of the sixth over, they had slumped to 29/3 and the questions were left to the middle-order. Shaheen Shah Afridi helped himself to all three wickets, as South Africa tried to do things in a hurry.
David Miller, on home soil, looked like he might stroke his way to another match-clinching century, with some powerful drives in his 31. Just as he looked fairly settled, he chipped Shadab Khan to Ul-Haq, leaving the remaining 124 to Rassie van der Dussen and Phehlukwayo.
It was a tall order, especially to a recent debutant and a relative novice. Van der Dussen built on his 93 from three days ago, which now makes leaving him out very difficult.
He stroked his way to 80 not out off 123 balls and allowed Phehlukwayo to do his thing at the other end. The powerful southpaw rode his luck somewhat, but there was plenty of power and cheeky creativity in his breakthrough 63 not out.
He's living up to the all-rounder potential everyone has spoken of since he made his debut. Congratulations Man of the Match @andileluck19! Career-best 9.5-2-22-4 and career-best 69 not out. Extra special as well, playing in his home ground.#ProteaFire #SAvPAK pic.twitter.com/Oo6pDHuJE1— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 22, 2019
He won a game for his country, and that is something he has been challenged to do. At some stage, at the World Cup, he may well face a similar situation. Knowing that he has done it, in a game that had to be won, will fill him and his side with a lot of confidence.
The third ODI is on Friday at SuperSport Park in Centurion.@whamzam17