Pakistan's performance raised a few eye brows when they were seen struggling against Ireland and Pakistani fans were uncertain about Pakistan’s fate in the Champions Trophy. But Pakistan erased all doubts with a brilliant show of bowling, fielding and batting in the warm-up match against South Africa, beating them by seven wickets.

[caption id="attachment_1296" align="alignright" width="290"]Hafeez seemed remarkably poised in the match and scored a half-century (Photo: AP) Hafeez seemed remarkably poised in the match and scored a half-century (Photo: AP)[/caption]

Pakistan had this last chance to acclimatise themselves to English conditions as their first warm-up match against Sri Lanka was abandoned because of the bad weather. And Pakistan made the most of it. Despite the absence of their two crucial bowlers – Mohammad Irfan and Saeed Ajmal – Pakistan gave the opponents a drubbing. South Africa imploded in front of Pakistan’s young talent Asad Ali, Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan and lost seven wickets on just 83. Had it not been Jean-Paul Duminy and Ryan McLaren stay at the crease, Proteas’ innings would have been over before touching three digits. A 94-run partnership between the duo made the match interesting and it helped South Africa give Pakistan a target of 203.

Pakistan put South Africa into bat after winning the toss and dominated them from the outset when Junaid Khan dismissed world’s number one batsman Hashim Amla in the first over. Misbah-ul-Haq added insult to injury as his throw caused the loss of Colin Ingram. The Proteas were two for 14. It was upto captain AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis to salvage the early loss. de Villiers tried to grasp the Pakistani bowling for a little while, but lost his wicket eventually in the hands of Asad Ali, who started his international career with three maiden overs against Ireland. His performance today was not less impressive. South Africa were 43 when their skipper departed.

But what was going to happen was more nightmarish for the Proteas than what had happened. Four more batsmen were sent packing by the Pakistani bowlers with the addition of just 40 runs. Asad clinched the wicket of Alviro Petersen while Wahab dismissed du Plessis, Farhaan Behardien and David Miller in an outstanding spell. At 83 for seven, the last hope for South Africa was Duminy, who was included in the side after quite a while and proved his form recently against the Netherlands.

South Africa’s top priority at the stage was to play full 50 overs and Duminy did the same. He scored 43 off 91, hitting just one four, but the way he stayed at the crease during most of the innings helped South Africa cross the psychological barrier of 200. On the other hand, McLaren made 55 off 72 and when he was dismissed, only six overs’ game was left. Trying to make runs fast, he was clean bowled by Asad. Duminy lost his wicket to Junaid in the 48th over. South Africa succeeded in giving a 203-run target to Pakistan in 50 overs.

[caption id="attachment_1297" align="alignright" width="300"]Asad Ali performed well once again and took three wickets, including de Villiers’ (Photo: AP) Asad Ali performed well once again and took three wickets, including de Villiers’ (Photo: AP)[/caption]

Asad and Wahab took three wickets apiece and Junaid dismissed two batsmen.

Brimming with confidence, Pakistan started off well, but a direct hit by Hashim Amla ended Nasir Jamshed’s show on 13 runs. Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Farhat denied South Africans any chance to even think of victory and added 85 runs in the second wicket. From Dale Steyn to Morne Morkel to Lonwabo Tsotsobe to Rory Kleinveldt, all seemed helpless against the duo.
Hafeez gave chance to other Pakistani batsmen to make themselves familiar to the new conditions and was retired out on 54. Farhat got out on 56 runs which included five fours. The last wicket Pakistan lost was of Asad Shafiq, who was dismissed by Tsotsobe in trying to play a straight drive.

Pakistan now needed another 47 runs to seal victory. Misbah and Umar Amin led the team to win without much effort. When Pakistan required just four runs to win, Pakistan fans in the stadium started roaring out in unison. They all were demanding a six from the captain. Considering it another chance to remove “Mr. Tuk Tuk” tag, Misbah finished the match with a six and Pakistan won the match by seven wickets.

South Africa also failed to perform as far as bowling is concerned. Steyn gave 26 runs in five over while Morkel gave 23 in six overs and both failed to get a wicket. Only Tsotsobe took two wickets.

Pakistan are now set to play their first match of the Champions Trophy against West Indies on June 7. The tournament’s opening match was played between South Africa and India on June 6.
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