It took 26 matches to arrive but the World Cup finally provided a nail-biting finish with South Africa’s one-wicket victory against Pakistan at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.
Fortunes swung wildly between the two sides but Keshav Maharaj held his nerve to help the Proteas to their fifth win in six matches.
Chasing 271, Aiden Markram put the team in the driver’s seat with a brilliant 91. However, the chase went haywire with Shaheen Afridi giving crucial breakthroughs to reduce South Africa to 250 for eight.
HIGHLIGHTS | Pakistan vs South Africa ODI World Cup
Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi and Tabraiz Shamsi then chopped off 21 runs while surviving a hostile spell from the three Pakistan pacers. Once the quicks had bowled out, Maharaj whipped left-arm spinner Mohammed Nawaz to the fine-leg fence to help the Rainbow nation cross the line.
South Africa got off the blocks in style when Quinton de Kock took four boundaries off Afridi in the second over before Markram took charge with stunning shots, the highlight being an upper-cut for six off Haris Rauf.
When Markram and David Miller added 70 runs for the fifth wicket, South Africa was cruising to victory before Afridi had Miller caught behind.
Later, leg-spinner Usama Mir - who came on as a concussion substitute for Shadab Khan after the latter hurt himself while fielding - removed Markram, tilting the game in Pakistan’s favour. But in the end, the former champion could not close out the game and slumped to its fourth straight loss of the tournament.
In the first innings, Babar Azam (50) and Saud Shakeel (52) led the way with half-centuries, with Shadab Khan and Mohammad Rizwan chipping in with cameos after Pakistan elected to bat first. However, none of the batters converted their starts, and the side ended the innings at 270.
At 141 for five, Pakistan looked in trouble before Shadab and Shakeel came up with counter-attacking knocks. Shakeel used the sweep effectively to find the fence against the spinners while Shadab pulled Maharaj for a four and a six before lofting Shamsi down the ground.
The duo’s 84-run stand, off 71 balls, set the stage for Pakistan to tee off in the last ten overs. But Coetzee struck in the 40th over to remove Shadab before Shamsi had Shakeel caught behind. South African bowlers bowled out Pakistan in the 47th over, and the 20 balls Babar’s men failed to play proved costly in the end and could potentially bring their World Cup campaign to a premature end.
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