PAKISTAN EDGE PROTEAS IN ODI SERIES OPENER

Mohammed Hafeez provided the top-order experience that Pakistan had lacked in the Test series to get his side over the line for a five-wicket victory over the Standard Bank Proteas with five balls to spare in the opening Momentum One-Day International at St. George’s Park on Saturday.

The experience of the Momentum Man of the Match was there for all to see as his unbeaten 71 off 63 balls (8 fours and 2 sixes) got his side over the line and made sure there would be no 11th-hour stumble.

The other key batting contributions for Pakistan came from Imam-ul-Haq (86 off 101 balls, 5 fours and 2 sixes) and Babar Azam (49 off 69 balls, 5 fours) who put on 94 for the second wicket to lay the foundation for victory.

Other important contributions came on the bowling front from Hasan Ali (1/42) and Shadab Khan (1/41) who had the most economical bowling figures in the match and tied down the Proteas batsmen at critical times.

The Proteas total of 266/2 on the back of a 155-run second wicket partnership between Hashim Amla and new cap Rassie van der Dussen always looked a little bit below par and so it turned out to be.

Amla put his barren 2018 ODI year behind him with his 27th century in this format (108 not out off 120 balls, 7 fours and 1 six). It was his first century at this venue and his third against Pakistan which tied the South African record against these opponents of AB de Villiers.

Van der Dussen made South Africa’s fourth highest ODI score on debut (93 off 101 balls, 3 fours and 3 sixes) and had every reason to feel happy about his first performance.

The other debutant, Duanne Olivier, turned in a mixed performance. He did outstandingly well in the opening power play, taking 1/13 in 4 overs, and there is no doubt that, although he has to work on his white-ball skills, he provides genuine wicket-taking opportunities.

The two areas that the Proteas will undoubtedly reflect on will be their batting in the final power play and their bowling in the second power play.

The Proteas only managed to score 76 in the final 10 overs, way below their norm which often runs to three figures.

On a slow-paced pitch that lacked bounce and pace and under conditions that provided neither seam nor swing assistance the Proteas were left with a lack of wicket-taking options in the middle overs and it required the part-time spin of Reeza Hendricks to break the second-wicket partnership.

The chances are that pitches may be similar for the ICC World Cup and the Proteas will need to consider whether they need to play two specialist spin bowlers as an attacking option.

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