SA clinch series at Newlands
Proteas nail run chase under lights at Newlands
Batting problems? What batting problems?
For a side that looked hungover at the crease for much of their one-day series against Pakistan, SA earned themselves a drink at Newlands on Wednesday.
Asked to come up with what would be the highest successful chase in the 31 day/night ODIs played in Cape Town, the home side were in the pub less than two hours after sunset, the series theirs 3-2.
Pakistan’s 240/8 meant SA needed a dozen runs more than anyone batting second had scored to win under lights at Newlands.
They never looked like not doing so, winning with seven wickets standing and 10 overs to spare.
Quinton de Kock’s 83, a wonder of 58 balls, 11 of them drilled for four, another three for six, only 21 runs not in boundaries, kept SA’s foot on the accelerator until the 21st over.
Then Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen tightened the nuts and bolts with an unbroken stand of 95 in which they both scored 50 not out.
The disappointments were Hashim Amla, who never quite got going before he was caught behind for 14, and Reeza Hendricks, who did — but was undone for 34 when an ambitious cut flew into third man’s hands.
But Amla has an unbeaten century and a half-century to show for his earlier efforts in the rubber, and Hendricks was 17 short of a 100 in Centurion when the game was won.
So the entire SA top five who played on Wednesday banked a score of 50 or more at least once in the series as did Andile Phehlukwayo.
It was a consummate performance that made you wonder how they were bowled out for 164 at the Wanderers on Sunday.
Conditions were, of course, different on the first Newlands pitch in 10 years that was not prepared by Evan Flint, who has upped sticks for the Wanderers.
That much was obvious when Du Plessis won the toss and chose to field at a ground where only six of the previous day/nighters have been won by the team batting second.
SA’s thinking was explained when leg spinner Imran Tahir shared the new ball with Dale Steyn, but in the end the Pakistanis met the challenge.
And that despite being deprived of the services of their wicketkeeper and captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who has been banned for four matches for targetting Phehlukwayo with a racist taunt in the second match of the series at Kingsmead last Tuesday.
Opener Fakhar Zaman held the first half of the innings together with his 70, 40 of which came in boundaries.
He shared stands of 56 with Babar Azam and 44 with Mohammad Hafeez but Pakistan seemed on the ropes when Phehlukwayo had Zaman well held by Tahir on the fine leg boundary in the 25th over.
But Imad Wasim, who took guard with his team on 174/6, steered them to their decent total with an unbeaten 47.
Dwaine Pretorius and Phehlukwayo took two wickets each in an attack that didn’t bowl badly — Steyn and Wiaan Mulder were the only ones who went for more than a run a ball — but also struggled to knock over their listing opponents.
Nothing, then, was certain at the supper break. But De Kock seized control of the narrative in the space of three deliveries in the third over of SA’s reply, when he muscled Usman Shinwari over midwicket for six, edged the left-arm seamer past leg stump for four, and smacked a catch to cover — off a no-ball.
It was going to take something special to come back from that, and while Pakistan are well capable of exactly that, they weren’t special enough by a long way on Wednesday.