South Africa 271 for 9 (Markram 91, Afridi 3-45) beat Pakistan 270 (Shakeel 52, Babar 50, Shamsi 4-60, Jansen 3-43) by one wicket
The fine balance appeared to swing South Africa’s way once again as Jansen joined Markram and the pair began to hack at the equation rather than approach it with caution, being South Africa’s last pair of recognised batters. The ball after he clattered Haris Rauf back over his head for a flat six in the 37th over, Jansen spooned a slower ball to Babar Azam at point, leaving South Africa 36 away from the target with four wickets in hand.
Afridi then found the outside edge of Gerald Coetzee and Rauf pulled off a one-handed diving return catch to dismiss Lungi Ngidi. By then, they had poked and prodded their way to within 11 runs of victory. On another day, umpire Alex Wharf might have upheld Rauf’s lbw appeal against the No. 11 Shamsi off the final ball of the 46th over. Not tonight. Pakistan reviewed the not-out decision, only to watch in agony as the ball-tracking showed impact to be umpire’s call. Nine balls later, it was all over – after 25 matches, the 2023 ODI World Cup had its first thriller. And South Africa did not choke.
While South Africa’s batting performance may have been jittery, their bowling effort – their weaker discipline so far in the tournament – was impressive on a flat surface. After Pakistan opted to bat, it took incisive use of the short ball from Jansen and Coetzee and the smart selection of Shamsi, who turned the ball both ways, to dent their run-scoring.
Ngidi returned from a knee niggle that had kept him out of the Bangladesh game to open the bowling alongside Jansen and the pair began with a short ball barrage. One of Jansen’s went over both Abdullah Shafique and Quinton de Kock’s heads for byes, while another from Ngidi, went to the point boundary but South Africa’s relentless approach did not take long to pay off. In Jansen’s third over, Shafique holed out off Ngidi at deep-square leg.
In Jansen’s next over, South Africa inserted Heinrich Klaasen at a deep-slip/short-third and Jansen went full and wide. Imam-ul-Haq reached for it, edged and was caught to leave Pakistan 38 for 2 in the seventh over.
Markram was introduced in the eighth over – presumably for the match-up with Babar who has not been at his best against spin – and Rizwan continued living dangerously. He chipped Markram wide of cover and batted on to bring up his 2000th ODI run and then hit boundaries of Jansen, Markram and Maharaj to get Pakistan going.
With spin at both ends, Rizwan and Babar built steadily and their third-wicket stand grew to 49 before Bavuma called on Coetzee. Used in the enforcer role, Coetzee was up at 140kph and around the helmet from the get-go and it did not take too long for him to have an impact. His fifth ball was a bouncer which Rizwan top-edged to de Kock.
Pakistan then promoted Iftikhar Ahmed to No. 5 for the first time in his career, ahead of Saud Shakeel who is reputed for playing spin well. He scored only five runs off the first 14 balls he faced, then hit Maharaj over cow corner for six, Ngidi over midwicket for four but then, just after the halfway stage, failed to read a Shamsi googly and hit it to Klaasen at mid-on.
All the while, Babar was ticking along and he went on to bring up a third half-century of this World Cup campaign, off 64 balls. Pakistan needed him to bat on but a review from de Kock, who thought he had Babar caught down leg off a Shamsi legbreak, ended his vigil.
Shakeel and Shadab combined for an 84-run sixth-wicket stand as South Africa’s death bowling struggles appeared to come early. Runs came off the spinners and Coetzee, who eventually broke the stand with a signature bumper. Shadab tried to clear midwicket but gave Maharaj a simple catch. Fifteen balls later, Shakeel threw his bat at a Shamsi delivery close to off stump and nicked off. Pakistan had already used their finisher earlier in the innings and the impact of how far that backfired was clear when neither Afridi nor Mohammad Nawaz came off and Pakistan were bowled out with 20 balls to spare.
Pakistan gave Iftikhar a promotion with the ball too, and he bowled the first delivery of the chase down leg side for five wides. Two balls later, Shadab hit his head on the turf while fielding and had to be walked off the field. The eventful start to South Africa’s innings continued when de Kock, the top scorer of the World Cup, took 18 off Afridi’s opening over. Afridi, however, eventually had de Kock caught on the deep-square-leg boundary.
Bavuma had a quiet start to his comeback innings, after missing the last two games with a stomach bug, but took on Nawaz. He found boundaries via the sweep, the cover drive and the on drive, then hit Afridi over the inner ring and Haris over midwicket but played one big shot too many as the powerplay came to a close, pulling Wasim to midwicket.
Rassie van der Dussen and Markram dealt with the pace from Rauf and Wasim with ease and Markram’s upper cut over deep third off Rauf was the shot of their 53-run stand for the third wicket. While they were batting it was confirmed that Shadab would not be able to take any further participation in the match and his replacement Usama was brought on in the 19th over. He made an almost immediate impact when he pinned van der Dussen on the pads with a topspinner. Van der Dussen reviewed and ball-tracking showed it was going on to clip leg stump. Seventeen deliveries later, Klaasen top-edged Wasim to Usama at deep third and South Africa were stuttering.
Markram and Miller then came together to steady the chase with their attacking approach – adding 70 off 69 balls – and though South Africa stumbled again after they were separated, they did not fall short like they had done against Netherlands.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent for South Africa and women’s cricket