Thursday, June 8, 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 : South Africa vs Pakistan

South Africa vs Pakistan at Birmingham today was a high octane match - a win would take the Proteas to semis, while a win for Pakistan would keep them in contention for the next round.

ABD, having won the toss decided to bat first & it was expected that the Proteas batting would take the wind out of sail from Pakistan. But, first Amla, then de Kock & then even ABD perished in quick succession, leaving them in tatters at 62 for 3 at the end of 15 overs. - ABD out for a first ball duck (first time in his ODI career), as the Pakistani fielders went cock a hoop in glee, as the spinners were weaving a deadly web.
It was expected that here on du Plessis & Miller would construct the innings, milking singles & occasional boundaries, but it was not to be. Barring Miller, all other recognised batsmen failed to stay & score. Morris & Rabada batted with some purpose towards the end giving Miller able support for the score to push beyond 200 mark & at the end of 50 overs, SA had scored 219 for 8. Miller was left unbeaten for a fighting but a rather laborious 75 runs, his slowest fifty ever in ODIs.
Pakistan bowlers were excellent with their length & line & the pitch assisted them with juicy bounce. Hassan Ali picked up 3 wickets, while Imad & Junaid took 2 apiece, with splendid figures. At some stage, even 175 - 180 was looking difficult, but for Rabada & Miller in the end, who carried the score to some respectability.

Pakistan started in earnest, with opener Fakhar going hammer & tongs - he also survived two hits on his helmet & a missed run out. But just when they looked like tearing the SA attack apart, Morkel removed both the openers in the 8th over & it was game on. The pressure built, caused the next 20 deliveries to go without any run as the batsmen struggled to get any rhythm. Tahir too was accurate with his spin, but Babar & Hafeez weathered the storm and gathered runs in bits - the target never beyond reach. Morkel struck again in the 24th over to claim Hafeez, but runs started to flow for Pakistan with Shoaib Malik coming to the crease, releasing the tension.
Rain halted the play at the end of 27th over, with Pakistan clearly ahead on D/L calculations by 19 runs.
The drizzle continued as the Pakistan supporters cheered & the SA supporters turned gloomier. The match was called off eventually after 2 hours of wait, with Pakistan the winner by 19 runs in D/L methods - clearly the first big upset of the tournament.
Pakistan certainly were a much improved bunch today, playing with purpose & a definite plan. Hassan Ali was declared the Man of Match, & rightly so - three crucial wickets for just 24 runs & a fantastic catch in the deep.
The tournament looks very open at this stage, though India looks comfortable to reach the semis from this Group B. SA have made their position tricky now with a game against India left, while Pakistan has come bouncing back - the match between Pakistan & Sri Lanka will be crucial to decide the semi final line ups. 

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