ICC Champions Trophy: Pakistan ‘completely outplayed’ world No.1 South Africa: Graeme Smith

Pakistan stunned South Africa by 19 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis Method in yet another rain marred ICC Champions Trophy 2017 match at Edgbaston on Wednesday.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 08, 2017 16:04 IST
Graeme Smith
Graeme Smith
ICC Champions Trophy,Champions Trophy 2017,Pakistan vs South Africa
Pakistan beat South Africa on Wednesday in a rain marred ICC Champions Trophy Group B match at Edgbaston.(Reuters)

As frustrating as it was to have yet another game affected by the weather, Pakistan completely outplayed the No.1 ranked team in the world at Edgbaston. Pakistan deserves a huge amount of credit for having dusted itself down after its game against India.

South Africa’s performance today was anything but convincing, having looked reassuringly strong against Sri Lanka in game one. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but there just appears to be something missing from our play on this tour so far. It may well be that the squad are slightly underdone in terms of the amount of cricket they’ve played as a unit in recent months, but even so, the loss to Pakistan will be tough for the boys to take.

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After having seen the manner of Pakistan’s loss to India, South Africa had an opportunity to take as much pressure off themselves going into the India game as possible with a good performance. Put simply, that didn’t happen, and Pakistan never took its foot off our necks once it had established a foothold in the game.

Its bowlers were excellent all day, and despite South Africa getting away to a satisfactory start, the game changed when the two spinners were brought in to the game.

Where Pakistan was clever was in assessing the conditions quickly, and certainly more effectively than the South Africa batsmen. It realised that the track was a used pitch that was slightly slower than it might have been, adjusting to bowl very straight and offer little width for the South Africa batting line-up to dine out on.

Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim bowled beautifully, and managed to put South Africa’s batsmen under consistent pressure, which Sri Lanka didn’t manage at The Oval. As a batting side under pressure, losing wickets in clusters is something you have to prevent if you’re to have any hope of constructing a challenging total. We just seemed to lose wickets at bad times today and at regular intervals, with Pakistan forcing players to try and use their initiative or play across the line in order to score quickly.

As easy as it is to criticise what was a disappointing South Africa display, Pakistan should be commended on how it approached the game today.

There were some scathing articles about its performance in what is always a big game for it against India, but it showed real character as a team to bowl and field as well as they did today.

Hassan Ali is a hugely impressive bowler. He bowls with pace, and the skill involved to come around the wicket and take the ball away from the left handers is a handy one to possess. He looks to take wickets rather than simply contain, and made a big impact with the ball today.

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Mickey Arthur and his staff have done a good job in getting this side into the right frame of mind for Wednesday’s game, and you could see that from the very first over. As a team, they were sprinting in to position, getting through between overs and just looking infinitely sharper than they had done against India.

The team fought hard to get into a position where it could control the game, and did well to not relinquish that control. David Miller played a great hand, and the batting performance would have been a lot more exposed without his knock.

South Africa has to re-evaluate and ensure it executes its plans far better in Sunday’s game. A positive from my point of view was to see the form Morne Morkel is in with the ball. When he’s in that mood and finds his rhythm, he can be one of the most dangerous strike bowlers in the game. He has that ability to take a game by the scuff of the neck and make something happen.

It wasn’t enough on Wednesday, as Pakistan could afford to be more cautious in its approach when batting, but his form could be key against India’s formidable batting powerhouse.

To sum up, it was simply a poor day for South Africa. It’ll know where it needs to improve and has a few days to focus on what is now a hugely important game on Sunday.

First Published: Jun 08, 2017 16:01 IST