With Anam Amin not playing, Fatima Sana opened the bowling with Diana Baig and Pakistan had a much better start than they had against Australia. Baig, who was guilty of bowling too short against the number one ranked side, made the course correction and got the ball to pitch on a good length. Sana, at the other end, got the bowl to swing and was rewarded with the wicket of Lizelle Lee when the South Africa opener drove one away from her abody.
Batting at three, Tazmin Brits, once again failed to get a move on and eventually fell to Baig with Sidra Nawaz pulling off a stunner behind the stumps.
Road to recovery
From 21 for two, it was time for the recovery act and they had the best person for the job in Wolvaardt. The 22-year-old was the highest run-getter for South Africa in the World Cup 2017 and she didn’t disappoint them yet again. The elegant right-hander started with a square drive through backward-point on the fourth ball of the opening over. Then she pulled out her trademark cover drive off Baig in the fourth over.
She took a special liking to Baig and hit the pace bowler for two more boundaries in the 12th over.
Act of spinners
Another match, another middle over strangle by the spinners. Pakistan spinners Dar, Nashra Sundhu and Sohail restricted the batters and only 37 runs came from the next 13 overs and South Africa were 77 for two in 25 overs. Sune Luus in particular was slow to get off the blocks and survived multiple DRS calls during the same period.
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It seemed like the introduction of Ghulam Fatima freed Wolvaardt up and she reached her fifty from 75 balls with a four off the leg-spinner. Post her fifty, Wolvaardt opened up further with four more boundaries. She skipped down the pitch to loft Ghulam through mid-on to reach the fifty before repeating the feat in the next ball.
Wolvaardt then swept Sohail to fine-leg for another boundary before flicking Sana through mid-wicket. Just when it looked like she would go on to score her fourth hundred in the format, Ghulam had the last laugh when she had the right-hander hit it back to her in the 30th over.
Return of the leg-spinner
Ghulam Fatima, playing her fourth ODI and her first one since February 2017, struck twice in the same over when she removed Wolvaardt and Mignon du Preez in the same over.
The 26-year-old then dealt another body blow to South Africa as Marizanne Kapp was caught behind for just seven.
Recovery act II
South Africa once again needed their lower order to stand up and Luus with the help of Chloe Tryon and Trisha Chetty took her side over the 200-run mark. Luus brought up her fifty in the process – her slowest in ODIs and it came in 94 balls – and then hit Dar for a huge six over deep square-leg in the 47th over.
Chetty, who came in after Tryon’s 31, scored a 26-ball 31 herself to take South Africa to 223 for nine from their stipulated fifty overs.
For Pakistan, inexperienced Sana closed out the innings well with a flurry of leg cutters and slower balls after having handed the responsibility to bowl four overs at the death.
Never ending top order troubles
Pakistan started seemingly well with 26 runs coming in the first six overs. However, Ismail struck twice in back-to-back deliveries with the wickets of Sidra Ameen and Bismah Maroof. And that introduced Sohail to the crease. On the hat-trick ball, Sohail tried to cut the ball and missed it before leaving the next ball. Two more dot balls followed.
Ayabonga Khaka followed up the Ismail’s double-wicket-maiden with another six dot balls.
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Omaima Sohail’s methods
Sohail eventually found her bearings as she drove Khaka through the off-side for her first four. But South Africa didn’t let them get away and bowled a few tight overs and Pakistan were 43 for two in 13 overs.
However, Sohail pulled out another cover drive against Khaka before cutting Tryon through point for a boundary.
One step back, one step forward
Nahida Khan and Sohail found few more boundaries, but couldn’t keep the required run rate in check as they struggled to rotate the strike against the South Africa pacers. Khaka, who bowled well despite receiving some tap from Sohail, eventually was rewarded with the wicket of Nahida as she had the opener trapped in front for 40.
Nida Dar’s struggles and consequences
Dar struggled from the start and it had a pile on effect on Sohail as well. The former was caught on the crease more often than not and couldn’t rotate the strike. She was on five off 18 when Sohail got to her fifty from 83 balls.
With the score reading 113/3 in 31.1 overs, Pakistan needed Dar to up the ante, but the allrounder failed to do it and racked up dot balls to be on 11 off 33 balls. That eventually was told on Sohail, and in an attempt to keep up with the required rate, the duo took on Masabata Klaas – the weakest of South Africa bowlers of the day.
While Dar was successful as she hit a six, Sohail fell to Klaas as she was caught at deep square-leg for 65 off 104 balls.
Lack of boundaries
Although Sana started with a boundary, Pakistan struggled to find the ropes at regular intervals with Dar hitting only one to the fence in the first 61 balls of her innings. Eventually, the off-spinning allrounder got Klaas away for a four in her last over. They needed 38 runs from the last 24 balls.
Nawaz fell in the 47th over even as eight runs came from that over. Dar inside edged for another boundary in the next over before Baig smashed Khaka for back-to-back fours in the penultimate over. However, Dar was run out at the non-striker's end and an experienced Ismail defended nine off the last over to give South Africa a six-run win.
Brief Scores: South Africa 223/9 in 50 overs (Laura Wolvaardt 75, Sune Luus 62; Fatima Sana 3/43, Ghulam Fatima 3/52) beat Pakistan (Omaima Sohail 65, Nida Dar 55; Shabnim Ismail 3/41) by six runs.
POTM: Shabnim Ismail