No amount of praise would be too much to describe the courage and tenacity with which Pakistan beat South Africa in Auckland on Saturday. The target they gave South Africa was only a modest one but all praise to the Pakistan seamers who bowled with conviction and passion to pull off one of Pakistan’s most outstanding wins in the World Cup.
Apart from the excellent bowling, Pakistan had to thank its fielding for this spectacular victory. Not a single catch was dropped and two brilliant ones taken, one of which could even be described as a blinder. It was the catch taken by Sarfraz Ahmed, one of his six victims, to dismiss Hashim Amla, a catch that truly changed the course of this match.
Yet, as long as de Villiers was batting he could have easily taken South Africa home but for some reason, it seemed as if the South Africans were under a challenge to finish the game in 35 overs and were racing towards that target when in actual fact and deed, there was no need to be going at the frenetic pace they had set themselves.
The required run rate was seldom much more than four an over and later even less than three an over which meant that the sort of shots to which Duminy, Steyn and later de Villiers himself got out were entirely unnecessary. One can only attribute South Africa’s approach to the heat of the moment and the almost unbearable pressure out there in the middle.
Any comment on this match would be incomplete if it did not mention Sarfraz’s brilliant contribution both with the bat and behind the stumps. He had brought the South African attack to its knees and his unfortunate run out, when he was going so well, was a tragedy.
Pakistan had never got this sort of a start in this World Cup and although much of the momentum was subsequently lost by Misbah, this was perhaps the only occasion in this World Cup – other than in the UAE match – when the Pakistan batting really looked on top. His six catches were even more important but his catch to dismiss Amla was crucial.
I have grave doubts in my mind whether Umar Akmal would have been able to take that catch if he was keeping wickets and that could have made a huge difference to the ultimate outcome. The touring selection committee’s persistent refusal to give Sarfraz a chance is a matter that now needs to be explained. Even at the risk of repeating myself.
I would have to say that the decision to play Nasir Jamshed ahead of Sarfraz in the UAE game was a mistake of such grave and glaring proportions that it should not be forgotten under the euphoria of victory. Waqar Younis’ reportedly haughty response to a very valid question on this issue should not be allowed to sweep this matter under the carpet.