TELFORD VICE in Birmingham
DAVID Miller and Morne Morkel will look back on South Africa’s Champions Trophy match against Pakistan at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Wednesday with fondness, but their teammates won’t.
Miller’s 75 not out was a triumph of discipline over his natural attacking game, an innings of maturity, awareness and nous.
It rescued South Africa from the 61/3 they were when he took guard in the 15th over and took them to a half-decent total of 219/8.
Morkel charged into the bowling crease with irresistible confidence to claim two wickets in his second over and another in his eighth, and all of them for only seven runs on his way to figures of 3/18 off seven.
But he couldn’t stop Pakistan from reaching 119/3 in 27 overs when rain ended the match.
That made Pakistan the winners by 19 runs – which means South Africa’s match against India at The Oval in London on Sunday is a showdown.
Not only are South Africa highly likely to have to beat India to stay in the running for the semi-finals, they could also have to win that match handsomely enough to survive the game of net runrate roulette that might ensue to decide the issue.
AB de Villiers won the toss and chose to bat despite a forecast for rain, and Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla made a slow but steady start to the innings.
But, with 40 runs on the board in the ninth over, Amla walked across his stumps to slow left-armer Imad Wasim and was trapped in front for 16.
That was the start of a slide that claimed six wickets for 78 runs in 20.4 overs.
De Villiers reached for a wide delivery, which was bowled by Imad, and spooned a catch to point to suffer the only first-ball dismissal in his 212 innings in this format.
Hasan Ali, who took 3/24, began a raid of 3/10 in his first four overs when South Africa’s bolthole batsman, Faf du Plessis, dragged the fast bowler’s second delivery onto his stumps.
Hasan then removed JP Duminy, who drove footlessly and edged to slip, and Wayne Parnell, whose off stump was set askew by an away swinger, with consecutive deliveries.
The fate of De Villiers and Parnell marked only the fifth time in all the 579 ODIs South Africa have played that two of their top seven suffered the indignity of a golden duck in the same innings.
Miller and Chris Morris kept the Pakistanis at bay in a stand of 47 that survived Miller being poleaxed by a yorker from Mohammad Amir and being given out leg-before for 47 — Miller referred the decision and the ball was shown to be missing leg — and Morris being cleanbowled for 22 by Junaid Khan with what was correctly called a no-ball.
Junaid ended the partnership legitimately in the 43rd over when he had caught Morris caught in the deep for 28.
That brought Kagiso Rabada to the crease to share a stand of 48, the biggest of the innings.
It was snuffed out by a fine running, diving catch by Hasan deep in the covers to dismiss Rabada for 26, his highest score in his 14 one-day innings.
The first five overs of Pakistan’s reply cost South Africa 32 runs, 23 of them drilled by debutant Fakhar Zaman.
He hit Rabada and Parnell for three fours each, five of them through the off side.
Morkel solved the problem in the eighth over with an off-cutter that took the shoulder of the left-hander’s bat and lodged in Amla’s hands at slip.
Two balls later Pakistan’s other opener, Azhar Ali, guided a ramp shot down Imran Tahir’s throat at third man.
Tahir also hauled in Mohammad Hafeez’ top-edged pull at fine leg to give Morkel his third wicket.
But there was no stopping Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik from putting Pakistan on top when the rain came, and stayed.
South Africa, then, have it all to do at the The Oval on Sunday.