STANDING at the lonely third-man boundary, Shaheen Shah Afridi kept going down on his haunches. Mohammad Wasim, every now and then, sank to the ground due to cramps.
It was humid, draining at the M.A Chidambaram Stadium here on Friday as Pakistan desperately sought to revive their World Cup campaign against South Africa.
Wasim still kept returning to bowl, while Shaheen turned it around in Pakistan’s favour in two brilliant finishing spells, only to see South Africa scrap to a one-wicket win in an absorbing thriller at the World Cup on Friday.
South Africa were comfortably cruising towards their 271-run target at 206-4, with Aiden Markram and David Miller well set to take them over the line, when Shaheen (3-45) spiced up the contest.
The left-armer used the reverse-swing at play, swung one away from Miller in the 34th over to break the 70-run partnership.
Before Shaheen returned five overs later, fellow pacer Haris Rauf sent Marco Jansen (20) into hitting big and finding Pakistan captain Babar Azam’s safe hands at cover.
Leg-spinner Usama Mir, on as a concussion substitute for Shadab Khan, then took the prized scalp of Markram (91); the right hander trying to finish things off quickly and Shaheen then drew the outside edge of Gerald Coetzee’s bat in the 42nd to reduce South Africa to 250-8.
Pakistan felt they had the game in the bag only for Keshav Maharaj and Lungi Ngidi to defy the pacers one after the other for four overs as skipper Babar Azam moved in for the kill.
Haris took Pakistan within a wicket of victory when he dived on a dying ball, taking a stunning one-handed return catch after Ngidi got a leading edge with South Africa still requiring 11 to win.
The pacer could’ve wrapped it up when he rapped last man Tabraiz Shamsi on the pads with the final ball of his spell. The umpire didn’t raise his finger and the review went with that call, technology showing the ball would’ve clipped the leg-stump.
Babar was left with last over of pace and after Mohammad Wasim Jr couldn’t remove the final pairing, it came down to the first over of spin with the Proteas still needing five to win.
Shamsi, having survived the pace, got a single off the first ball to put the more experienced Maharaj on strike. Nawaz strayed his line and Maharaj eased him through the leg-side for four to roar in celebration as Pakistan players went down on their knees.
Having opted to bat, and looking to end a run of three straight defeats, Pakistan showed intent in what had become a must-win clash for them to stay in the running for the last four.
But the regular fall of wickets let them down before Saud Shakeel (52) and Shadab Khan (43) provided them with some late impetus.
Openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafiq fell early but Pakistan’s run-rate was above five by the end of the first powerplay.
With Babar on the other end, Mohammad Rizwan hit a few blows against Maharaj’s left-arm spin but was caught behind off Coetzee after getting a 31-run start.
Iftikhar Ahmed, too, got in and got out before Saud and Shadab were united at the crease after Babar (50) was dismissed with another half-century to his name.
He gloved a Shamsi delivery back to wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock while attempting a rash sweep as South Africa’s hopeful review paid off to leave Pakistan needing another rescue act.
Thankfully they had Saud and Shadab.
The duo was involved in an 84-run partnership, which saw Shadab play his shots against both spin and pace of the South Africans — smashing three fours and two sixes during his 36-ball knock.
Saud, meanwhile, would be a quieter partner, but he hit seven fours in his run-a-ball effort before becoming chinaman Shamsi’s third victim.
Nawaz’s 24-run contribution helped Pakistan go past 250 before they were dismissed for 270 in the 47th over.
Pakistan needed early wickets to stop South Africa’s destructive line-up from hurting them and once Wasim held onto the catch at square to dismiss Quinton de Kock, the belief was palpable among the team’s ranks.
After helping Shaheen make the first breakthrough, Wasim — who had replaced Hasan Ali in the side — went on to bounce Temba Bavuma.
Pakistan were finally taking catches, they were busy in the field, diving, stretching. So much so that Shadab, the team’s best fielder, hit his head on the ground to be forced out of the ground.
Usama, however, came in and trapped Rassie van der Dussen’s leg-before after the right-hander had helped Markram to get a start with a 54-run partnership.
He would then take a catch at third man that sent back the dangerous Henrick Klassen.
Miller would come in and land some blows with Markram playing an anchor role in their partnership. Once that stand was broken, Pakistan seemed to have regained their energy, belief once again coursing through the veins, but it just wasn’t enough.
Abdullah Shafique c Ngidi b Jansen 9
Imam ul-Haq c Klaasen b Jansen 12
Babar Azam c de Kock b Shamsi 50
Mohammad Rizwan c de Kock b Coetzee 31
Iftikhar Ahmed c Klaasen b Shamsi 21
Saud Shakeel c de Kock b Shamsi 52
Shadab Khan c Maharaj b Coetzee 43
Mohammad Nawaz c Miller b Jansen 24
Shaheen Afridi c Maharaj b Shamsi 2
Mohammad Wasim c de Kock b Ngidi 7
Haris Rauf not out 0
EXTRAS (B-4, NB-4, W-11) 19
TOTAL (all out, 46.4 overs) 270
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-20 (Abdullah), 2-38 (Imam), 3-86 (Rizwan), 4-129 (Iftikhar), 5-141 (Babar), 6-225 (Shadab), 7-240 (Saud), 8-259 (Shaheen), 9-268 (Nawaz)
BOWLING: Jansen 9-1-43-3 (6w, 2nb), Ngidi 7.4-0-45-1 (3w), Markram 4-0-20-0, Maharaj 9-0-56-0, Coetzee 7-0-42-2 (1w), Shamsi 10-0-60-4 (1w, 2nb)
T. Bavuma c Saud b Wasim 28
Q. de Kock c Wasim b Shaheen 24
R. van der Dussen lbw Usama 21
A. Markram c Babar b Usama 91
H. Klaasen c Usama b Wasim 12
D. Miller c Rizwan b Shaheen 29
M. Jansen c Babar b Haris 20
G. Coetzee c Rizwan b Shaheen 10
K. Maharaj not out 7
L. Ngidi c&b Haris 4
T. Shamsi not out 4
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-5, W-15) 21
TOTAL (for nine wickets, 47.2 overs) 271
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-34 (de Kock), 2-67 (Bavuma), 3-121 (van der Dussen), 4-136 (Klaasen), 5-206 (Miller), 6-235 (Jansen), 7-250 Markram, 8-250 (Coetzee), 9-260 (Ngidi)
BOWLING: Iftikhar 3-0-23-0 (1w), Shaheen 10-0-45-3 (3w), Nawaz 6.2-0-40-0, Haris 10-0-62-2 (2w), Wasim 10-1-50-2 (3w), Usama 8-0-45-2 (1w)
RESULT: South Africa won by one wicket.
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Tabraiz Shamsi
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2023