On a slow surface more like the subcontinent than any of its South African counterparts, South Africa showcased impressive flexibility with the bat to construct a total of 266. It might be a score that used to be intimidating 15 years ago, but here in Port Elizabeth, where the average score still hovers around 230, the home side will be confident of keeping Pakistan at bay. It was Hashim Amla’s 27th ODI century that ran like a spine through the innings, with Rassie van der Dussen keeping him excellent company on debut, scoring 93 in a 155-run partnership.
The nature of the pitch, better suited to spin than any other in South Africa, perhaps explains why Pakistan opted to go with several spinners in the side. Imad Wasim operated as early as the seventh over, while Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Fakhar Zaman all got a bowl. It may also explain why Pakistan are yet to lose an ODI at this ground, winning all three games that produced a result. What South Africa appeared to do exceptionally well was understand precisely what they wanted to do with the innings once the decision to bat first had been made. Preservation of wickets was a central priority, with only one lost in the first 46 overs. The strike was rotated regularly, with the bowlers not afforded the luxury of building pressure through dot balls, and the bad delivery was almost always put away. It was the way Amla, opening the batting with Reeza Hendricks, played in an opening partnership of 82, and the manner in which he and van der Dussen approached the rest of the innings. Time will tell, but it is possible South Africa were slightly too conservative in spite of the challenges St Georges Park brings. Only a late flurry, with 76 scored off the last ten, got them close to the 300 they had seemed on track for throughout the innings.—Agencies