The Standard Bank Proteas top order were unable to break the runs-scoring drought that has afflicted them throughout the ICC Cricket World Cup as they crashed to defeat by 49 runs against Pakistan at Lord’s in London on Sunday.
The result effectively rules the Proteas out of qualifying for the semi-finals as they can mathematically no longer score enough points to qualify.
The Proteas, set to score 309 for victory, produced a batting performance that was a mirror of what has happened previously. Quinton de Kock (47 off 60 balls, 3 fours and 2 sixes) and Faf du Plessis (63 off 79 balls, 5 fours) both got good starts but were not able to convert them into the substantial contributions that were needed to chase down such a big total.
Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller then perished, trying to force the pace. In the case of Miller he was not helped by a groin strain injury suffered while fielding which meant he had to concentrate on hitting boundaries as sharp running between the wickets was not an option open to him.
The Proteas were still in the game after 30 overs when they only trailed Pakistan by 5 runs on comparative run rates although they had lost an extra wicket but scoring 149 off the last 15 overs and 120 in the final 10 proved beyond them.
That Pakistan were able to set such a challenging target after winning the toss and deciding to bat first was the result in the first place of a rapid first-wicket partnership of 81 between Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman which included making 58 in the opening power play.
Babar Azam then chimed in with 69 (80 balls, 7 fours) but the real damage was inflicted by Haris Sohail who was playing only his second match of the tournament. He blasted his way to 89 off just 59 balls (9 fours and 3 sixes) and shared vital stands of 81 for the fourth wicket with Azam and 71 for the fifth with Imad Wasim. The latter stand took only 40 balls.
It enabled Pakistan to score 165 runs in their last 20 overs with 91 of those coming in the last 10.
The Proteas target might have been even bigger had Lundi Ngidi not taken 3 wickets in 6 balls at the back end of the innings.
As always, the star of the Proteas attack was Imran Tahir who displayed excellent control in taking 2/41 and has now gone past Allan Donald as South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in World Cup tournaments from five fewer matches. His return catch to dismiss Imam to establish the new mark was a special effort.
The Proteas were never able to get on top of the well-balanced Pakistan attack and were not able to score more than 54 runs in any of the 10 over splits until the final 10 when they managed 70.
Mohammed Amir gave Pakistan just the start they needed by getting rid of Hashim Amla cheaply and, in spite of a poor fielding display that saw numerous chances go down, they continued to work their way through the Proteas top order with the Proteas going into the last four overs with only 3 wickets in hand.
This made an all-out assault virtually impossible. Andile Phehlukwayo nevertheless finished with a defiant 46 (32 balls, 6 fours).
The Proteas play their penultimate match against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street on Friday.