The result of the Test series may be as disappointing for Mickey Arthur as it was gratifying for Otis Gibson, but in a World Cup year, it is the limited-overs results that will truly stand out. To that end, South Africa, desperate to finally snap their global tournament jinx, made an inauspicious start to their year, falling to a defeat they primarily owed to their own batting conservatism. It gave Pakistan, far better suited to the Port Elizabeth pitch than the hosts, the chance to break their duck on tour, condemning South Africa to their fifth ODI defeat in six matches between the two teams.
It is an odd defeat for South Africa to analyse, particularly given the batting scorecard, and the positives to be drawn from it. Hashim Amla roared back to form with a classy hundred, while Rassie van der Dussen enjoyed an excellent debut, pacing his innings better than any of his counterparts. As far as the bowling went, Imran Tahir was perhaps slightly removed from his brilliant best, while the faster bowlers were never likely to enjoy much assistance from the Port Elizabeth surface.Faf du Plessis and his men will be likelier to find Durban more conducive to their skillset, though by no means is it as quick and bouncy as the ones in Centurion and Johannesburg. The increased pace and bounce it offers compared to Port Elizabeth will buoy Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier plenty, with Pakistan, who never themselves looked like taking too many wickets, also challenged to raise their game.
Pakistan couldn’t have asked for a better start to the series, eager for a clean break from their ODI form in 2018, where they began the year with a whitewash suffered against New Zealand and finished with just one top eight win all year. Having matched that number in just one game, they will feel eager to move into a commanding position in the series at a ground where they have won their last two ODIs against South Africa.
Mohammad Hafeez hitting the ground running allows Pakistan to balance their side once more, with the allround ability of Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf meaning they bat far deeper than their Test match side. Fakhar Zaman missing out in Port Elizabeh will have frustrated them, but Imam-ul-Haq’s return to form was timely, while Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali never allowed South Africa to get away in the first innings. —Agencies