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ICC World Cup: South Africa defeat Pakistan by one wicket in Chennai

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In ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, South Africa defeated Pakistan by one wicket at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai yesterday. Chasing 271 for win, South Africa reached the target with one wicket in hand and 16 balls to spare. 

Earlier, deciding to bat first, Pakistan were all out for 270 runs in 46.4 overs.

Aiden Markram scored 91 for South Africa while Shaud Shakeel hit 52 runs and Babar Azam made 50 for Pakistan. For South Africa, Tabraiz Shamsi picked up four wickets while Shaheen Afridi took 3 wickets for Pakistan. Tabraiz Shamsi was adjudged player of the match.

The World Cup finally got its high-octane thriller as South Africa narrowly edged past Pakistan by one wicket in a riveting encounter in Chennai on Friday (October 27). Chasing a slightly under-par target of 271, South Africa were cruising at one point with Aiden Markram and David Miller guiding them towards a comfortable win. However, they imploded dramatically from 205/4 to find themselves at 260/9 with 27 deliveries remaining. Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi held their nerve to get the Proteas over the line in a nail-biting finale. This is the first time that South Africa have beaten Pakistan in a World Cup match (ODI/T20I) in seven attempts since 1999.

The run chase started off in rollicking fashion as Iftikhar Ahmed sent the very first delivery of the innings for five wides, an absolute shocker down the leg-side that Mohammad Rizwan could do nothing about. An 11-run over to start was far from ideal for Pakistan and it got worse when the next over, Shaheen Afridi’s first, went for 19 including four boundaries from Quinton de Kock. It was the kind of fast start that South Africa would have wanted but Pakistan soon gained control with the wickets of the openers inside the first Powerplay. It was the short ball ploy that did the trick as Afridi removed de Kock before Mohammed Wasim Jr sent Temba Bavuma packing.

Markram was into his work straightaway, finding instant timing on a surface where most batters struggled to get their tempo right. Rassie van der Dussen gave him support for a while before the former fell to spin for the sixth time in as many games. A head injury early on to Shadab Khan while fielding meant that Pakistan were forced to bring on Usama Mir as the concussion substitute. It proved to be a beneficial move as Mir removed van der Dussen in his very first over to bring Pakistan back into the game. The continued short ball ploy then yielded a massive breakthrough as Heinrich Klaasen holed out to third man. At 136/4, the game was right in the balance before Markram and Miller combined for a crucial 70-run stand.

As the partnership went through the gears, it seemed like they were running away with the game. Pakistan needed a spark of inspiration from somewhere and Afridi came back to provide just that by getting Miller to nick one through to Rizwan. It was the opening Pakistan longed for and this allowed the Afridi-Rauf pairing to have a crack at South Africa’s lower order. Wickets kept falling at regular intervals and Mir then struck a telling blow by getting rid of Markram who looked set for a century. That was the breakthrough which completely broke the game open and South Africa started to lose their composure due to the pressure exerted by Pakistan’s bowlers.

Shamsi joined Maharaj with 11 still needed and on a slow surface with variable bounce, those were still a long way away for South Africa. As much as the Proteas needed the duo to apply themselves, they also knew that the rub of the green had to go their way in such a contest. And it did in the final ball of Rauf’s spell. Having struck early in that over with a phenomenal return catch to remove Lungi Ngidi, Rauf had Shamsi pinned on the front pad, only for the umpire to rule it not out. Pakistan reviewed and ball tracking had it to clipping leg stump. South Africa had survived albeit by the barest of margins. In hindsight, that was the moment which decided the game as Maharaj and Shamsi then kept their cool to see the side through.

The option to bowl Mohammad Nawaz at the end instead of a wrist spinner in Mir to the tail will be one that will be debated. Nevertheless, Pakistan made a spectacular game of defending this under-par score. However, they only have themselves to blame having failed to utilise 20 deliveries from their allotted 50 overs. On one of the better batting surfaces at Chepauk, most of the Pakistan batters got starts but failed to kick on to make a substantial score. Skipper Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel got to fifties but again weren’t able to bat deep into the innings. Losing wickets at regular intervals meant that Pakistan weren’t able to dominate proceedings against the South African bowlers.

Shamsi had a great day with a four-fer to his name. It’s not just the wickets but his aggressive intent to pick wickets that paid dividends. Marco Jansen had set the tone early on with the twin strikes of the openers in the first Powerplay. The duo were nagging in their spells, Jansen more so, as Pakistan failed to register healthy partnerships barring the one between Shakeel and Shadab. The duo batted with refreshing intent and while they were there, a total of 290-300 seemed on the cards. But once Shamsi broke that partnership, the innings nosedived in dramatic fashion as Pakistan were bowled out well inside their allotted overs. In a game that went right down to the wire, Babar’s men would rue those extra 10-20 runs which could have made a lot of difference.

Brief scores: Pakistan 270 in 46.4 overs (Saud Shakeel 52, Babar Azam 50; Tabraiz Shamsi 4-60, Marco Jansen 3-43) lost to South Africa 271/9 in 47.2 overs (Aiden Markram 91; Shaheen Afridi 3-45, Usama Mir 2-45) by one wicket

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