Over the years, South Africa have struggled to perform well in sluggish conditions where batting against spinners gets extremely tricky. As it is they aren’t renowned players of spin. This is why their performance on the tour of UAE against Pakistan, who were unofficially playing at home, was so impressive. After holding Pakistan to a 1-1 draw in the Tests, South Africa went on to clinch the one-day series 4-1 as well as the T20 series 2-0. It was the kind of result even South Africa wouldn’t have expected when they set out, considering their history. And this is precisely why they will hold the upper hand when the T20 and ODI series kicks off against the same side at home.
South Africa showed admirable application in the UAE after the kind of start they had in the series. They were bowled out for 183 in the opening ODI, but scraped home to a one-wicket win thanks to a magnificent all-round bowling performance. Their batting woes came to the fore in the second match when they were bowled out for 143 in response to Pakistan’s mediocre score of 209. Following the underwhelming performance in which South Africa’s batsmen struggled against the spinners, it seemed the Pakistanis had gained the upper hand.
The third ODI was where the tide began to change in South Africa’s favour. They put up a competitive 259 on board, and although it was not a match-winning score, the batsmen showed significant signs of improvement, Faf du Plessis and Jean Paul Duminy got half-centuries while the rest played around them. Their bowlers then came up with a highly competent performance themselves to restrict Pakistan to an unimpressive 191 all out – Imran Tahir was particularly top-class blowing away Pakistan with his spin.
Having gone 2-1 up, South Africa clinched the series in a memorable fashion. The talented Quinton de Kock announced himself with a fabulous century opening the innings in the fourth ODI as South Africa batted first. Pakistan fought back well to restrict the Proteas to 266 for 5 in spite of de Kock’s wonderful ton. Pakistan were in with a good chance to square the series, but Dale Steyn blew them away with a magnificent spell of fast bowling (5 for 25) even in relatively unresponsive conditions. With the series in the bag, South Africa completely stamped their authority over the Pakistanis in the final ODIs courtesy A B de Villiers unbeaten century as the Proteas thrashed their opponents by 117 runs.
The South Africans did not give any respite to Pakistan in the T20s as well. The bowlers kept Pakistan down to 98 in the opening game and won the same comfortably. A half-century from du Plessis set up the win in the next game as Pakistan came short again against Steyn and co. Considering the extremely short gap between the series in the UAE and the one in South Africa, the Proteas can claim a definite psychological edge.
--By A Cricket Analyst