Pakistan have only themselves to blame

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Sunday, March 26, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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South Africa's professionalism and determination saw off the late challenge of Pakistan, as they won the last of the first round matches to go to the top of the table and virtually assure themselves of a place in the finals. Pakistan have only themselves to blame, for despite getting to a great start through youngsters Imran Nazir and Younis Khan, they let go the platform through careless batting and were dismissed for less than 200.

Also without Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar they did not have the firepower to restrict the South Africans.

When two young batsmen, both of whom are also magnificent fielders, are at the crease, one expects plenty of sharp singles and quick running between the wickets to see that there are not too many dot balls. But these two relatively inexperienced batsmen seemed more keen on the big shots that would get applause rather than the hard labour of working the singles and trying to convert the ones into twos and threes. Not that singles are easy, for the South Africans' fielding is sharp and with Cronje setting attacking fields with more in the circle, the option to go over the top was preferred and of course that brought about the claps but did not quite help the run rate.

Imran's injury restricted his running between the wickets as also his movements. The Pakistanis would be disappointed with the way both batsmen threw their wickets away and so the team had two new batsmen at the crease, who had to settle in and then look to play the big shots. The skipper promoting himself didn't work and with Inzamam getting out to a casual shot the Pakistanis lost out on the chance to put the South Africans under the pressure of scoring at more than four runs an over.

The pitch in Sharjah gets slower as play progresses and with the outfield also getting heavy with the dew it is not easy chasing even a smallish target. The ball also doesn't come onto the bat and the quicker bowlers are finding more value in slower deliveries than in sheer speed. Lance Klusener picked five wickets, not through movement in the air but by clever variation. Cronje did not have to use Kallis and even without Pollock the fielding made the attack look sharper than it actually was.

Waqar Younis has embarked on resurrecting his career after being in and out of the side in recent times and he got the first breakthrough, but without Akram and Akhtar this attack, at least in Sharjah, looks pedestrian. The spinners brought them back in the game but it was here that Moin erred in not bringing Waqar back on as soon as the seventh wicket was down, for the pacer with his reverse swing would have been quite a handful for the tail enders. Boje farmed the strike intelligently and ensured a win and the South Africans will relish the couple of days off after the busy season they have had.

Pakistan will have got some measure of confidence back after the way their bowlers have bowled in both matches, defending a low score. Now they would expect their batsmen to pull their weight and put more on the board than they have so far in this tournament. If they lose to India they are out of the tournament and they will no doubt use the rest day to think of how they can pressurize India, after the reasonably easy win India had in the first game.

The crafty Miandad has already tried to do so by suggesting that without Azhar's contribution India would have struggled and nobody from the Indian side has reminded the Pakistani coach that by the same token without Inzamam's contribution the Pakistani total may not have even been 100. But all these psychological ploys will be forgotten as the teams line up for the clash that is so special to Sharjah.

Professional Management Group

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