Proteas' great comeback

INDIVIDUALS can win international cricket matches only occasionally. But professionals, who play like a well-knit unit, can do so on a consistent basis.

RIZWAN EHSAN ALI

The triumphant South African team. — Pic. AP-

INDIVIDUALS can win international cricket matches only occasionally. But professionals, who play like a well-knit unit, can do so on a consistent basis. Pakistan surely have hoards of individual performers, but the South Africans — under their young, 22-year-old skipper Graeme Smith — are making a fast recovery from the World Cup debacle in their home country earlier this year, thanks to their collective strength.

"The South Africans are afraid of bombs, not Pakistanis", was the blunt message from Smith when he arrived in Pakistan for a rescheduled tour of five one-day internationals and two Test matches after a bomb blast in Karachi on September 19 had initially threatened the visit.

The visitors got just three days to get themselves tuned up for the five one-day internationals spread over 10 days. They took a little bit of time to adjust to the conditions that were hot and humid. They were 2-0 down, but came back with a bang to clinch the series 3-2, silencing all those critics who labelled them as chokers.

The bizarre banning of Smith and Andrew Hall prevented both players from competing in the final game. There is no denying the fact that Hall had intentionally elbowed Yousuf Youhana on his follow-through and Smith exchanged some hot words with the Pakistan batsman during the second game at Lahore.

But the action from the match referee, Clive Lloyd, came after the fourth game and that too when the International Cricket Council's Chief Executive Malcolm Speed intervened and viewed the videotapes. Lloyd should have taken action on his own after the day-night game against all the three players involved in the ugly incident. Every individual who saw that incident either on television or at the Gaddafi Stadium was expecting Lloyd to take some action, but neither the on-field umpires, one of whom was the experienced Darrell Hair of Australia, nor the Pakistan team management made any complaint to the match referee.

When the video evidence convinced Speed to take speedy action there must have been some rule which stopped Lloyd from taking a timely decision. If that's the case then that rule must be scrapped so that match referees have much more control over the game.

First one-day international: Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis would have nightmares for the rest of their lives over the way young Shoaib Malik took 42 runs off 12 balls which proved decisive in Pakistan's narrow eight-run victory. Pollock and Kallis — the two senior-most pros of the South African squad — were the bowlers to give away the runs after the Pakistan total had been at a manageable 235 at the end of the 48th over.

Yousuf Youhana (68) and Yasir Hameed (56) had ensured that Pakistan would have enough wickets in the slog overs to accelerate as they put on 82 runs for the second wicket off 125 balls.

Shoaib's clean hitting rocketed Pakistan to 277 for six at the end of 50 overs as Pollock went for 1, 1lb, 6, 4, 4 and 6 and Kallis conceded W, 1, 6, 6, 6 and 1 in the last two overs.

With six sixes and as many fours, Shoaib needed just 41 balls to score 82 and he overshadowed the effort of Boeta Dippenaar who scored a maiden unbeaten century. Dippenaar's 110 off 131 balls was not enough to see his side through as South Africa was stopped at 269 for six off 50 overs.

Dippenaar was promoted as an opener after Herschelle Gibbs pulled his stomach muscle during strenuous training a day before the game. With 27 required off the last two overs, Dippenaar gave a glimmer of hope to his camp when he collected 14 off Shoaib Akhtar's express pace bowling. The highlight of this attack was a perfectly timed flick over backward square leg for a six.

But Mohammad Sami didn't disappoint some 25,000 home team supporters and gave away just four runs off the last six deliveries which earned Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the series.

Smith and Dippenaar had silenced all the spectators with a resolute 138-run opening stand.

Even the recalled leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed failed to have any impact in his comeback match. He conceded 65 runs off 10 overs without taking a wicket.

However, once Shoaib Akhtar got the breakthrough in his second spell removing both Smith and Kallis in the space of two runs, the asking rate began to mount.

Although Neil McKenzie scored a run-a-ball 62, he was reprieved by Abdul Razzaq and Inzamam-ul-Haq, who dropped sitters when the batsman was on 13 and 25 respectively.

South Africa needed 80 runs with eight wickets in hand when Shoaib removed McKenzie and Boucher in his third spell to finish with 4-49 and Dippenaar failed in his attempt to find boundaries to bring the asking rate down.

Second one-day international: South Africa once again failed to check the Pakistani batsmen in the end overs. It conceded 49 runs in the last five overs, which gave the home team a win by 42 runs in the end. Youhana who made 65 with seven fours, was involved in a heated argument with Andrew Hall after the bowler intentionally elbowed the Pakistani batsman in his follow-through. Smith joined in support of Hall and also used some offensive language against Youhana as Pakistan umpire Nadeem Ghauri tried to calm down the three players. The most surprising thing was that Pakistan captain Inzamam was at the striker's end, but didn't bother to have a word with either Youhana or the umpire.

Younis Khan made 41 and was involved in a key third wicket partnership of 101 runs with Youhana off 109 balls. Pakistan once again — as in the first game — kept wickets in hand to accelerate. Shoaib Malik made 45 and also completed 1000 runs in his 50th one-day international.

Inzamam pulled a hamstring in the 17th over and retired hurt. But he returned to the crease in the 46th over. In all he made 33 off 28 balls, hitting three boundaries off Hall in the last over of the innings as Pakistan made 267 for seven.

Makhaya Ntini, who was out of sorts in the first game and bowled just three overs for 26 runs, came back well and took four wickets for 46 runs.

Boeta Dippenaar, the Man of the Series, scored 256 runs with a century and two half centuries. — Pic. AFP-

Dippenaar once again made a solid 58 while Kallis scored 42, but three crucial run-outs, later termed by Smith as "stupid", cost the South Africans dearly. McKenzie and Boucher were brilliantly run out by Sami, while Pollock failed to beat the direct throw of Younis Khan.

South Africa, which was well in the game at 107 for one in the 21st over, lost seven wickets for 67 runs with part-time off spinner Mohammad Hafeez claiming three wickets for 37 runs. Sami took three for 20 to add to his two run outs.

South Africa was nine down for 187 in the 44th over, but the last two batsmen, Alan Dawson (23 not out) and Ntini (11 not out), reduced the margin of defeat with an unfinished partnership of 38 runs. Ntini lofted Shoaib Malik for a six off the last ball of the innings as South Africa finished at 225 for nine.

Third one-day international: Perhaps stand-in captain Youhana had forgotten that it was the only day game in the five-match series as Faisalabad's Iqbal Stadium doesn't have floodlights.

Leading in the absence of the injured Inzamam, Youhana just simply couldn't remind his bowlers to finish off the overs in quick time. In the end, the Duckworth/Lewis method helped South Africa to snatch victory by 13 runs as the light faded at a time when the visitors were 221 for six in 45 overs in pursuit of Pakistan 243 for eight off 50 overs. Under the D/L method South Africa should have scored only 208 for the loss of six wickets when the match was stopped after 45 overs. Since the visitors were 221 for six, they were declared winners by 13 runs.

Pollock was fined his full match fee for showing dissent to umpire Darrell Hair when his caught behind appeal against Mohammad Hafeez was rejected. Yasir Hameed was the top-scorer in Pakistan's innings with 72 while Razzaq's quick 46 off 38 balls in the end helped his team to come close to the 250-run mark.

Ntini removed the dangermen Youhana and Shoaib Malik for 18 apiece and the paceman finished with three for 45. Robin Peterson, the left-arm spinner, claimed the wickets of Yasir and Younis Khan (9).

Gibbs played his first match of the series, but lasted just seven deliveries, falling to Shoaib Akhtar in the fourth over of the innings.

However, Kallis and Smith kept the scoreboard ticking at five an over with a 100-run partnership off 111 balls.

Makhaya Ntini, South Africa's consistent strike bowler, is congratulated by skipper Graeme Smith for dismissing Shoaib Akhtar in the fourth one-dayer. -- Pic. AFP-

Smith made a virtual run-a-ball 51, while Kallis scored 62. After Smith edged to Rashid Latif behind the wicket, Kallis was involved in a little battle which was eventually won by Shoaib Akhtar. Shoaib hit Kallis on the back with a vicious express delivery before knocking back the middle-stump of the experienced batsman with a perfect yorker.

With the light getting poorer and poorer, it was hard for the batsmen to face the express pace of Shoaib Akhtar. South Africa was happily placed at 205 for four in the 42nd over, but it soon became 206 for six.

Jacques Rudolph (46) holed out in the deep, while Shoaib castled Boucher. When it was hard to spot the ball in the fading light, Hall lofted Saqlain Mushtaq for a big six over long on in the 45th over. The umpires offered the light to Shaun Pollock and Hall, who both gratefully walked off the field, knowing well that as per the D/L method they were the winners.

Fourth one-day international: Pakistan badly missed Inzamam in the fourth game which was won by South Africa comprehensively. The visitors shot the home team out for a paltry 157 in the 48th over.

Inzamam couldn't fully recover from his hamstring injury which left a big hole in Pakistan's already brittle middle-order batting line-up. Andre Nel, playing in only his 12th international, returned career-best figures of four wickets for 39 runs. Ntini took three for 25 and Pollock bowled a superb spell of 10-4-9-1 to restrict Pakistan.

Only Youhana with 60 showed some responsibility, while Yasir made 30. None of the other batsmen could cross the 20-run mark and only six boundaries were scored in the innings.

Strangely, Pakistan persisted with the hopeless Hafeez in the fourth game although the opener had scored only 32 runs in the last three innings. Hafeez once again let the team down, departing for a 20-ball single in the 6th over.

Kallis made a solid 58 off 87 balls while Gibbs hammered seven boundaries in his 41 as Shoaib Akhtar disappointed thousands of hometown fans at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium with only one wicket for 23 off his seven overs.

South Africa levelled the series with an emphatic six-wicket victory and achieved the target with more than 11 overs to spare.

Fifth one-day international: Bad team selection was the main cause of Pakistan's seven-wicket defeat in the series decider at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.

There was little sense in giving Hafeez yet another chance after Pakistan had failed to get a solid start from the shaky right-handed opener in the earlier four matches. Moreover, if Inzamam was not fully fit he should not have played too. The third and the biggest blunder was the inclusion of leg-spinner Danish Kaneria.

Now, Kaneria had not played in a single match and if Pakistan wanted to have the advantage of playing the leg-spinner, it should have bowled first. The ball gets wet under lights because of dew in October in Punjab, and the leg-spinner was handicapped by the wet ball.

Andre Nel had career-best figures of four for 39 in the fourth one-dayer. — Pic. AFP-

Mark Boucher — figuring in his first one-day international as captain — led superbly after Smith and Hall were both banned by Lloyd for violating the code of conduct during the second game.

The body language of the South African players suggested that they were not worried by the two suspensions.

Boucher rotated his bowlers well and the all the six bowlers did well to restrict Pakistan to 192. Pollock once again showed his class with both the new and the old ball as he took three wickets for 33 runs. Kallis, although he remained wicketless for 22 off his six overs, took three brilliant catches.

Hafeez's dismal series ended when his middle stump was uprooted by Nel off the eighth ball of the innings. The opener finished the series with 33 runs from five innings. Nel should have won a leg before decision against Youhana, but Hair gave the benefit of doubt to the stand-in Pakistan captain. However, Pollock trapped Youhana leg before for a 10-ball duck.

Pakistan had its back to the wall at 35 for three when Yasir Hameed was smartly caught by Kallis at short mid-wicket. Inzamam limped to score 17 before his injury brought about his downfall.

Younis Khan called Inzamam for a quick single, but Rudolph's pinpoint throw from mid on hit the stumps and the Pakistan captain was run out for the 36th time in his long career.

Razzaq's 38, Rashid Latif's 25 and Mohammad Sami's 22 gave the Pakistan bowlers some runs to defend.

But Dippenaar and Gibbs laid the foundation for a South African victory with a 75-run partnership off 117 balls. Kaneria had just one good ball in his 10-over spell. This earned him the wicket of Gibbs when the opener failed to read a leg spinner and was stumped by Rashid Latif in the 20th over.

Paceman Shoaib Akhtar, for the second time in two days, disappointed his hometown fans. He couldn't find the breakthrough in three short spells.

Jacques Kallis is castled by an express delivery from Shoaib Akhtar in the first match. The Pakistan paceman picked up four wickets. — Pic. AP-

Sami had a double breakthrough in the 40th over, but it was too late by then. He first bowled Kallis for 40 and then trapped Dippenaar in front of the wicket, the batsman having compiled 74 off 125 balls. But by then South Africa required just 23 more runs, which Rudolph and McKenzie made without much trouble.

Dippenaar deservedly won the Man of the Series award after scoring 256 runs with a century and two half centuries.

The scores: Lahore, October 3

Pakistan 277 for six in 50 overs (Yasir Hameed 56, Yousuf Youhana 68, Inzamam-ul-Haq 37, Shoaib Malik 82 not out) beat South Africa 269 for six in 50 overs (Graeme Smith 71, Boeta Dippenaar 110 not out, Neil McKenzie 62, Shoaib Akhtar four for 49).

Lahore, October 5

Pakistan 267 for seven in 50 overs (Youhana 65, Inzamam 33 not out, Younis Khan 41, Shoaib Malik 45, Makhaya Ntini four for 46) beat South Africa 225 for nine in 50 overs (Dippenaar 58, Jacques Kallis 42, Jacques Rudolph 25, Mohammad Sami three for 20, Mohammad Hafeez three for 37).

Faisalabad, October 7

Pakistan 243 for eight in 50 overs (Yasir Hameed 72, Abdul Razzaq 46 not out, Ntini three for 45) lost to South Africa 221 for six in 45 overs (Smith 51, Kallis 62, Rudolph 46, Shoaib Akhtar three for 31). South Africa's target was revised as 208 from 45 overs by the Duckworth/Lewis method and it was deemed to have won by 13 runs.

Rawalpindi, Oct. 10

Pakistan 157 in 47.4 overs (Yasir Hameed 30, Youhana 60, Andre Nel four for 39, Ntini three for 25) lost to South Africa 158 for four in 38.5 overs (Herschelle Gibbs 41, Kallis 58 not out).

Rawalpindi, Oct. 12

Pakistan 192 in 49.3 overs (Yasir Hameed 28, Razzaq 38, Rashid Latif 25, Shaun Pollock three for 33) lost to South Africa 193 for three in 45.5 overs (Dippenaar 74, Gibbs 34, Kallis 40).