South Africa nearly gave it away at the end, but a brisk century from Hasim Amla and a quartet of wickets from Morne Morkel were just about enough to see their side sneak over the line in the third ODI at Dubai. The Pakistanis will be kicking themselves for coming so close to victory and snatching defeat instead.
South Africa played well for two thirds the way in defending 229. Soon after the 40th over, Pakistan lost Abdul Razzaq and required 76 on a slow surface. It should have been a sealed deal for the Proteas, but their game began to slip. Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rusty Theron bowled loosely, fielders put down catches while Wahab Riaz raced to an 11-ball 21 and Fawad Alam plundered powerlplay for a valuable 56 runs. Eventually, despite a tense last over from Rusty Theron, South Africa reached home as Pakistan ran out of steam. A hapless Alam remained not out on 59.
Tsotsobe and Morkel had opened with damaging spells, reducing Pakistan to 13 for 2 in the 7th over. After Mohammad Hafeez and Younis Khan departed cheaply, it was up to Imran Farhat and Asad Shafiq to rebuild and they did so at a snail's pace. The duo put on 85 runs before tight fielding cost Farhat his wicket via a run out. Shahid Afridi was able to do precious little before he too was sent off caught behind to some tight bowling by Morkel. The middle overs were wishy-washy for Pakistan, but the latter order came to the party and played well only to throw it away at the end.
Earlier in the day, South Africa struggled in their innings. Hashim Amla stood as a lone valiant figure, holding the innings together and forging partnerships with de Villiers and Duminy, neither of whom seemed to comfortable at the crease. They had to play cautiously especially after Jacque Kallis and Ingram lost their wickets to a robust Shoaib Akhtar. De Villiers was unlucky to be given out stumped off Afridi when he was clearly inside his crease. The Proteas should have expected a late surge, but that was not to be with the latter order caving in even as Amla stood his ground.
Amla consolidated well in with a slew of boundaries but even his innings was tided with luck. Shafiq missed a sharp chance at cover when Amla was on 78. But in the end, his fifth one-day century shone through as a glowing achievement in an otherwise ordinary match for South Africa. Pakistan will have to pull itself together now in hopes of drawing level in the series yet again. South Africa of course, is just one victory away from wrapping up the series.