Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Philander’s three wickets earned him the Man of the Match award
South Africa were able to prevent Pakistan from whitewashing them 3-0 after emerging victorious by four wickets in the third and final ODI in Centurion.
Proteas captain AB de Villiers starred with the bat, scoring an unbeaten 48, while pace bowler Vernon Philander provided the heroics with the ball as he took three wickets.
De Villiers won the toss and elected to bowl first.
His decision paid off immediately as Pakistan opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad edged a delivery from Philander straight to Hashim Amla at first slip to be dismissed for a duck.
Asad Shafiq fared no better as he was caught behind off the bowling of Lonwabo Tsotsobe for just one run.
Umar Amin managed to score 25 runs before Amla pulled off a stunning catch in the slips to send him back to the pavilion.
Shoaib Maqsood also failed with the bat as he amassed 25 runs before being out caught and bowled to Ryan McLaren.
Things went from bad to worse for Pakistan as wicketkeeper Umar Akmal was caught behind for only five runs to become Philander’s second victim of the day.
Bilawal Bhatti failed to cause any damage as he was caught by Amla in the slip region off the bowling of Imran Tahir.
Anwar Ali was on his way back to the pavilion the very next over as he was caught behind off the bowling of Philander.
With Pakistan struggling at 97/7, skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and spinner Abdur Rehman came to the rescue with a brilliant 51-run partnership, during which ul-Haq brought up his half-century, before Rehman was caught by Amla at deep square leg off the bowling of Tahir.
Sohail Tanvir was the next to go as he was caught out off the bowling of Tsotsobe for six runs.
Pakistan were eventually bowled out for a dismal 179 when Saeed Ajmal was caught by de Villiers in the slip region off the bowling of Wayne Parnell.
Ul-Haq remained unbeaten on 79 off 107 balls, which included four boundaries and two sixes.
Philander was the pick of the South African bowlers with three wickets, while Tsotsobe, McLaren and Tahir all snapped up two wickets apiece and Parnell chipped in with one.
Chasing 180 to win the match, South Africa got off to a poor start as opening batsman Quinton de Kock was caught out off the bowling of Bhatti for 15 runs.
Debutant Henry Davids, who was brought in as a replacement for Graeme Smith, failed to make a major impact as he was stumped by Akmal off the bowling of Ajmal.
Amla managed to amass 41 runs off 48 balls, which included six boundaries, before being run out.
Jean Paul (JP) Duminy was the next to depart as he was caught behind off the bowling of Rehman for only five runs.
David Miller scored a quickfire 24 before being caught behind off the bowling of Tanvir.
McLaren chipped in with a vital 17 runs before being clean bowled to become Ajmal’s second victim of the day.
There were no more nasty surprises for South Africa as they managed to cross the finish line with 68 balls to spare.
De Villiers remained unbeaten on 48 off 63 deliveries, which included three boundaries, while Parnell finished on seven.
Ajmal was the most successful Pakistan bowler with two wickets, while Tanvir, Bhatti and Rehman all picked up one wicket apiece.
Ul-Haq was ecstatic to have lead Pakistan to their first bilateral ODI series win over South Africa, but was disappointed to have finished the tour on a low.
“Already said in the second game as it was much needed to win this series,” he said. “Have had a lot of youngsters coming in and performing, especially after losing the home series in UAE. Really happy with how everyone played, and even though I am a bit disappointed with today, there is a lot we achieved on this tour.
“We have so many choices in the bowling department. Irfan can bowl well and take wickets, along with all the all-rounders. If you have choices like that then you can really go for it. This should help us in the Sri Lanka tour. Winning here in South Africa also helps us mentally.
“Pressure was on but I know in cricket that these things happen. Sometimes you are trying everything and giving 100%, and you still lose. You have to be patient and bat well, which we have done through this series. Really happy with the way the team fought here. This is always important, especially in the sub-continent. If you want to lead the side, then you have to perform consistently. You have to perform as a leader.”
De Villiers was pleased to have won the final match, but believes South Africa could have performed better throughout the series.
“I am happy with a few areas,” he said. “I thought we bowled exceptionally well and we adapted to conditions well this morning. It was tough to come out and bat against a world-class attack. Happy with how we stuck it through. It didn’t do much this morning and we bowled really well.
“Have to give credit to my bowling unit for taking wickets on this pitch. It was really tough to bat out there and score. That’s why it made the run chase so special for us. We need a bit more care with the partnerships. We seem to get in and get out. If we get in we have to take it deep.
“Another big series coming up against India. They have been playing really good cricket around the world and are No. 1 and will be a great challenge for us. Hopefully we can beat the Indian team here in South Africa.”
Philander edged out de Villiers for the Man of the Match award.
“I am enjoying the challenge at the moment,” he said. “It’s tough to be out of the side, but I am enjoying every moment out there. With the first new ball there is not a lot changing. As far as we can we try to strike with the new nut. I think the two new balls makes a difference as the ball stays a lot harder for a lot longer, also helped me get back into the fold again. My lengths still stay the same so I don’t have to adjust too much there. Just aim for top of off and hope for the best.”
Ajmal was named Man of the Series, and said: “I am very happy with my captain, my team-mates. They are always with me when I am bowling. Enjoying this a lot. I come to bowl and need to attack and get the wickets, so I do it. It’s not easy but we work hard so that is why I don’t take easy wickets. Very happy to play against South Africa.”