DURBAN – The manner of the Proteas’ defeat to Pakistan in the first one-day international in Port Elizabeth was more surprising than the result, given the fact that Pakistan are truly one of the best 50-over outfits in the world.
There is a certainty about the tourists in the shorter format, and that is certainly given considerable sheen by Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik.
They have provided an assurance in the middle-order, and it seems to have emboldened those upfront.
The five-wicket win for Pakistan, who chased 267, was clinical. It emphasised the need to reach at least 300 these days, because anything below that holds few fears for most teams who will challenge for the World Cup.
Pakistan barely broke a sweat in the chase, with Imam-ul-Haq providing the platform, and Hafeez administering the last rites.
Once good teams get in, it is very difficult to contain them. Batting second on Saturday was also a blessing in disguise.
While the pitch was slow, it quickened up somewhat under lights, and the greater pace of the South African bowling attack flew off the bat.
Pakistan were at home, and they handled Imran Tahir with confidence. They were a team transformed, and their billing as proper competition for the Proteas was given a big tick.
These are the lessons that the Proteas need before the World Cup.
The 155-run stand between veteran Hashim Amla and debutant Rassie van der Dussen was important, but it was also impotent at the back-end.
They needed more after that platform and, in hindsight, the Proteas may reflect that they would far rather have lost three more wickets in order to chase 30 or so more runs.
It was a strange game, in that sense. SA never looked pushed while batting, and neither did the visitors.
It was a change from a Test series dominated by the ball, but the Proteas were quickly reminded that Pakistan will not be blown away as easily.
They have a varied attack, and some enterprising batsmen. Perhaps most importantly, Pakistan also have some pride to restore. They expected to be a lot closer to SA in the Tests, but they were bullied by Duanne Olivier.
The top-order got some revenge on the fast bowler on Saturday, tonking him for 73 in his full 10 overs.
That’s the way the game tends to go, especially when you play a Pakistan team that can switch on you like Durban weather.
The second ODI is at Kingsmead on Tuesday (1pm start), and the Proteas were greeted on Sunday by gloomy skies, but they will hope that they get a game tomorrow.@whamzam17