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A look back at Pakistan’s first ODI series in South Africa


South_Africa_Pakistan_ODI_CricketIt was not until 2002-03 that Pakistan first played a bilateral ODI series in South Africa. Prior to that, they had played ODIs in South Africa on three tours, albeit in multilateral series. Pakistan’s first taste of international cricket in the rainbow nation came in 1992-93, when they were joined by the hosts and the West Indies for what was the Total International Series. This tournament ran from February 9 to 27, 1993, and featured a triple round-robin format to determine the finalists.

Pakistan had played South Africa once before, in a league match of the 1992 World Cup at Brisbane that ended in the Proteas’ favour by 20 runs. The two teams faced off in the opening game of the Total International Series at Kingsmead in Durban, with Wasim Akram and Kepler Wessels being the respective captains. Pakistan had an inauspicious start after Wasim elected to bat, as Saeed Anwar was bowled by Allan Donald off the fourth ball without a run on the board.

The absence of a substantial partnership hampered Pakistan’s quest for acceleration, and the innings closed at an uninspiring 208/6, with Inzamam-ul-Haq (47) and Asif Mujtaba (49*) being the key run-scorers. Openers Andrew Hudson and Wessels put South Africa well on course for victory with a stand of 101, before Hudson added another 58 with Peter Kirsten for the second wicket. South Africa needed 50 runs when the last ten overs began, with nine wickets still intact.

The floodgates were opened when Mujtaba had Kirsten bowled off the first ball of the 41st over. The next over saw Waqar Younis inflict a similar fate on Hudson, who finished with 93 from 124 balls. From that point, a combination of fantastic bowling from Waqar and a collective loss of nerve from the South African batsmen sensationally reversed fortunes. Two balls after he removed Hudson, Waqar scalped Daryll Cullinan for a duck to give another jolt to South Africa.

When Hansie Cronje became Waqar’s third victim, the equation read 29 from 27 balls with five wickets in hand. But Pakistan steadily applied the pressure to increase the asking rate, as a result of which there were a couple of manic run-outs that led to the ousters of Brian McMillan and Jonty Rhodes in the 47th over. Though wicketkeeper Dave Richardson hit two fours off Wasim in the 49th over, South Africa were still 14 away from the target when Waqar started the last over.

Craig Matthews perished off the first ball, while Richardson, South Africa’s last glimmer of hope, was at the receiving end of yet another run-out. Fittingly, it was Waqar who claimed the tenth wicket, as he bowled Fanie de Villiers off the final delivery to secure a stunning ten-run win for Pakistan. The ‘Burewala Express’, aged 21, returned figures of 5/25 in a fine display of swing bowling – all five wickets were bowled – and was deservedly named as Man of the Match.

Having managed to win the 1992 World Cup despite being in a hopeless situation at the halfway mark of the tournament, Pakistan were no strangers to come-from-behind wins. Even then, South Africa had themselves to blame for squandering the platform provided by the top order. They made amends with a six-wicket win against the West Indies, who in turn beat Pakistan by eight wickets at Johannesburg. Pakistan were bundled out for 150, and this time there was no miracle.

Pakistan were back to winning ways in their next game against South Africa, at East London’s Buffalo Park. They had a torrid start, as pacers de Villiers and Meyrick Pringle reduced the score to 29/3. Mujtaba joined Javed Miandad at this juncture, and the pair proceeded to share a game-changing stand of 165 – a new fourth-wicket record for Pakistan – that guided the innings to a respectable 214/6. Miandad fell in the last over for a 144-ball 107, while Mujtaba contributed 74.

A rain interruption meant that South Africa faced a target of 172 from 31 overs. A rapid fourth-wicket stand of 69 between Cronje (81) and Rhodes steered South Africa to 151/3, but as was the case at Durban, one key wicket was all it took to induce a meltdown. Rhodes’ dismissal to Wasim led to a calamitous collapse of seven wickets for ten runs, as South Africa crashed to 162 all out with five balls remaining. Wasim was the wrecker-in-chief this time, finishing with 5/16.

The pattern of the first-round results was repeated, leaving the three teams locked at two wins each with a round to play. Pakistan’s second fixture against the West Indies, at Durban, brought a heavy defeat. Smarting from a frustrating four-run loss to South Africa, the Windies rode on Brian Lara’s 128 to post a sturdy 268/5. Pakistan folded for 144 in reply, with only Miandad (67) showing fight. The crucial final round began with Pakistan taking on South Africa at Centurion.

For a change, Pakistan started on a bright note with the bat thanks to a 121-run opening stand between Aamer Sohail (62) and Rameez Raja (53). But the batsmen to follow could not capitalise, and the eventual total was restricted to 220/8. South Africa stuttered from the outset in their chase, and could only muster 198/9. Thus, primarily on the back of some quality bowling, Pakistan had emerged victorious in their first three ODIs against South Africa in South Africa.

South Africa were eliminated after going down to the West Indies by nine wickets, making the last league match at Cape Town a dress rehearsal for the final. Pakistan were inserted on a pitch of uneven bounce, and were demolished for 43 in 19.5 overs by the West Indian pace attack spearheaded by Courtney Walsh (4/16), before losing by seven wickets. This created a new record for the lowest ODI total, going past Canada’s 45 against England at the 1979 World Cup.

Two days later, Pakistan went down to the West Indies for the fourth time in the tournament, after another insipid batting performance led to a five-wicket defeat in the final at Johannesburg. From a steady 46/0, Pakistan tumbled to 87/5, with Sohail being the fifth man out for 57. The innings never really recovered, and ended at 187. Desmond Haynes and Lara stitched together an opening stand of 112, and despite a middle-order wobble, the West Indies sealed the win in the 40th over.

Lara was adjudged the player of the tournament for his tally of 341 runs at 68.20, while Waqar was the leading wicket-taker with 16 victims at 15.43. Pakistan’s subsequent multilateral outings in South Africa were the quadrangular Mandela Trophy in 1994-95 and the triangular Standard Bank International Series in 1997-98. After the first four matches of the ongoing series, their ODI record against South Africa in South Africa stands at 12 wins and 20 defeats in 33 matches.

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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