Pakistan barely broke a sweat in the chase, with Imam ul-Haq providing the platform, and Hafeez administering the last rites
The manner of the Proteas defeat to Pakistan in the first one-day international in Port Elizabeth was more surprising than the result, given the fact that Pakistan are truly one of the best 50-over outfits in the world.
There is a certainty about the tourists in the shorter format, and that is certainly given considerable sheen by Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik.
They have provided an assurance in midfield, and it seems to have emboldened those upfront.
The five-wicket win for Pakistan, who chased 267, was clinical. It emphasised the need to reach at least 300 these days, because anything below that holds few fears for most teams who will challenge for the World Cup.
Pakistan barely broke a sweat in the chase, with Imam ul-Haq providing the platform, and Hafeez administering the last rites.
Once good teams get in, it is very difficult to contain them. Batting second on Saturday was also a blessing in disguise. While the pitch was slow, it quickened up somewhat under lights, and the greater pace of the South African attack flew off the bat.
Pakistan were at home, and they handled Imran Tahir with confidence. They were a team transformed, and their billing as proper competition for the Proteas was given a big tick.
These are the lessons that the Proteas – as well as the selectors – need before the World Cup.
The 155-run stand between veteran Hashim Amla and debutant Rassie van der Dussen was important, but it was also impotent at the back end.
They needed more after that platform and, in hindsight, the Proteas may reflect that they would far rather have lost three more wickets to chase 30 or so more runs.
It was a strange game, in that sense. South Africa never looked pushed while batting, and neither did the visitors.
It made a change from a Test series dominated by the ball, but the Proteas were quickly reminded that Pakistan will not be blown away as easily.
They have a varied attack, and some enterprising batsmen.
Perhaps most importantly, Pakistan also have some pride to restore. They expected to be a lot closer to South Africa in the Test series, but they were bullied by Duanne Olivier.
The top-order got some revenge on the fast bowler on Saturday, tonking him for 73 in his full 10 overs.
That’s the way the game tends to go, especially when you play a Pakistan team that can switch on you like Durban weather.
The second ODI is in Durban tomorrow and the Proteas were greeted yesterday by gloomy skies, but they will hope that they get to play a game tomorrow. They will be all too aware though that Kingsmead is one of the grounds in the country where they don’t always find joy.
Tomorrow they will look to address that, and restore parity in the series.
Play at Kingsmead is from 1pm tomorrow, with coverage on
SABC 3 and Supersport 2.