Back to News

South Africa and Pakistan in hard-fought World Cup preparations

February 1st, 2019Cricket
South Africa have been battling out a series with Pakistan embracing three forms of the game as part of their preparations for the ICC Cricket World Cup Test. Pakistan’s tour began in earnest on Boxing Day following a straightforward six wicket win in the 3-day Practice match, with the 1st Test Match of three at the SuperSport Park cricket stadium in Centurion, Gauteng. Test series

From Pakistan’s perspective the Test series did not go well from the outset. South Africa took the first contest by 6 wickets and the Shaheens were all out for under 200 in both innings. What appears to have become a familiar second innings collapse had cost them yet another game. The home side saw a return to form for South Africa’s Hashim Amla to knock off the required runs in the main via a strong second-wicket partnership with Dean Elgar. Regardless, the Pakistani bowling attack showed more spirit sticking to their task to the bitter end.

So on to the 2nd Test at Newlands, Capetown in what is a magnificent setting surrounded by mountains. Pakistan are out cheaply for 177 in the first innings, five wickets down in the first 2 hours. South Africa amass 431 in their opening session, Faf du Plessis hits 103, while Markram and Bavuma both end up in the 70s. The Shaheens fare better in their second innings and reach 294 for 10 (however only 3 players produce with the bat, Asad Shafiq top scores on 88) It’s nowhere near enough, an easy run chase of 43 for the Proteas.

The Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg is up next, and the 3rd and final Test starting 11th of January 2019. Pakistan’s batting performance turns into almost a mirror image of the second match. Given innings of 185 for 10 and 273 for 10, the question marks over Pakistan's batting unit, especially their ability to handle pressure, only continue to grow. South Africa with innings totals of 262 and 303 all out take the honours by 107 runs, with a smooth 90 from Aiden Markram in the first and a major knock of 123 by Quinton de Kock in the second. Hashim Amla 41 and 72.

Well as they say if you can play intense Test cricket over several days you can play ODI. South Africa appear to be gathering momentum nicely with crossover squad members limbering up while Pakistan are still searching for some batting consistency and performance in depth.

One Day Internationals

St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth and the 1st ODI of 5, is in play19th of January 2019. The Shaheens are looking for a return to form. South Africa bat first and Hashim Amla carries on where he left off, not out 108 ably supported by Rassie van der Dussen with 93. Proteas 266 for 2 in 50 overs. Another 15 runs would have been more challenging. Finally - Pakistan’s batting lineup delivers with confidence: Imam-ul-Haq 86, Babar Hazam 49 and Mohammad Hafeez not out 71, 267-5 in 49.1 overs, the tourists win by 5 wickets.

A significantly happier Sarfaraz Ahmed commented: “This performance is a great team effort. Imam, Babar and Hafeez did the job for us.”

Second ODI at Kingsmead, Durban, on January 22nd plays out as a comfortable victory for South Africa who bounce back in the series as a result of a clinical all-round performance. Pakistan fell short of 50 overs setting a lacklustre target of 203 for 10 in 45.5 overs. Nevertheless some green shoots, Hasan Ali with his counter-attacking knock of 59 at number 9 (exposing another failure in the top order) and Shaheen Afridi with his outstanding opening spell of 3 for 44 had given Pakistan some hope. But step up Rassie van der Dussen 80 not out and Andile Phehlukwayo 69 not out to snatch it away from the Shaheens.

Sarfaraz Ahmed: “We didn't get a good start and we gave away too many early wickets. Hasan Ali batted really well and gave us some hope. We had our chance when they were 80/5. We needed one more wicket but credit goes to Phehlukwayo and to Rassie van der Dussen.

SuperSport Park, Centurion, it is the 25th January, and the 3rd ODI, with the series all square. Pakistan play exceptionally well for much of the match (317 for 6 in 50 overs), but stumble badly between rain breaks and the results slips away. All despite an exquisite 101 from Imam-al-Haq and a solid knock of 69 by Babar Azam. Proteas 187 for 2 in 30 overs awarded the win I a rain hit match by 13 runs (DLS Method). Reeza Hendricks 83 not out and Faf du Plessis 40 not out.

Faf du Plessis, South Africa captain: “We’re at 90 per cent of our best, we were below par today flat in the field but the batting part is going well in terms of composure. With rain around we tried to keep up with DLS and not lose wickets.”

Sarfaraz, Pakistan captain: “We thought it was a good score. Imam and Babar batted well and in the end Shoaib Malik and Imad batted well. Before rain we bowled very well, but after that we didn't bowl well.”

Back to the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, and 4th ODI on 27th January and there have been some evenly-poised encounters in this closely-fought ODI series, but this one produces an exceptional game of cricket. South Africa 164 for 10 in 41 overs, (Hashim Amla 59, Faf du Plessis 57) - Usman Khan 4 for 34, Shaheen Afridi 2 for 24. Pakistan 168 for 2 in 31.3 overs (Imam-al-Haq 71, Fakhar Zamam 44, Babar Azam not out 41). Pakistan win by 8 wickets and 2-2 in the series.

Shoaib Malik replacement Pakistan captain: “The goal is to keep taking wickets, and that's what all our bowlers did. Shaheen is an exceptional talent. We have talent in Pakistan, it's just a question of grooming them, and the players are improving every day.”

Now to the 5th and final game in the ODI series back at Newlands in Capetown on January 30th. Pakistan 240 for 8 in 50 overs, South Africa 241 for 3. The hosts bring the series home by 8 wickets.

Quinton de Kock, Man of the match: “The wicket played better in the second innings and I just tried to take full toll of that. Obviously I like batting second in the ODIs. We knew Pakistan had a good team and the wickets are quite flat and we always knew it's going to be a tough series. We know what they are capable of doing.”

Sarfaraz, Pakistan captain: “We played well in the previous game, but today our top three batters got starts. We wanted them to capitalise on that, but it didn't happen. If they do well then you have great chance of winning the game.”

“We have quite a few cricket games before getting into the World Cup. Imam is improving day by day and the way he is playing I think that is a very good sign for Pakistan. White ball cricket is all about the first three batters, if they give you good start you win most games.”

Faf du Plessis, Proteas winning captain: “We as a management are starting to see a bit of clarity in the squad, especially after this series. A few positions are still up for grabs, but there's surely more clarity now. I thought Pakistan played really good white-ball cricket, especially in the first four games, in all departments.”

Therefore despite the ODI series loss, Pakistan will feel considerably relieved at their performance especially given the 3-0 thrashing in the Tests. The one day games have been much more hard-fought competitive affairs with the World Cup a few months down the track. The Shaheens are undoubtedly still work in progress with quite a bit left to do in terms of working out with a young squad, but they are determined to pull it together at the high table. The experienced Imam-al-Huq’s return to form is a massive bonus.

For sure South Africa will have fewer headaches in regard to their World Cup combinations. Rassie van der Dussen has shone throughout and is surely on the plane for England. Captain Faf du Plessis is back in form, Quinton de Kock is in exceptionally good nick and Rashid Amla has produced a steady series of decent knocks as has Reeza Hendricks.

Undoubtedly, both South Africa and Pakistan are potential ICC World Cup semi-finalists in the forthcoming competition. Make no bones about it the Proteas are a class act and very hard to beat in their own back yard, which makes Pakistan’s latest ODI performance all the more respectable.