JOHANNESBURG – Faf du Plessis blamed a combination of factors, including the toss, some poor execution by the home team’s batsmen and the brilliance of Pakistan’s bowling, for South Africa’s first loss while clad in pink.
The outcome of the fourth One-Day International yesterday was a brutal one for South Africa, defeat by eight wickets with 18.3 overs to spare in front of a sold-out audience on what has become one of the highlights of the local cricket calendar.
“It was a combination of some average cricket from us, but also very good cricket from Pakistan,” said the Proteas captain, who scored 57 of his side’s 164 runs.
“It was a very good toss to win. It was very, very obvious the way the wicket played, but you still need to put a more competitive total on the board.”
Du Plessis’ counterpart on Sunday, Shoaib Malik, acknowledged as much.
“I’ve played a few games here, always on belters – that was not the case today,” said Malik, who was only named as captain when the Pakistan team arrived at the ground on Sunday morning, following Sarfraz Ahmed’s four-game suspension by the ICC for the racial slur which was directed at Andile Phehlukwayo in the second ODI.
“With the rain (on Saturday) and the pitch under cover, I knew it would be difficult to start… there was an edge in winning the toss,” Malik added.
It was an edge the Pakistanis grasped smartly, dismissing Quinton de Kock – playing his 100th match – for a duck in the second over, and then Reeza Hendricks for two at the start of the sixth.
Du Plessis and Hashim Amla (59) added 101 for the third wicket, but the match turned at the stage when they tried to up the ante.
“Myself and Hash were in, and we found it extremely hard to rotate strike and put pressure on the bowlers. The pitch was very unlike a Wanderers pitch – it spun quite a bit and (the ball) stopped, you don’t normally see that here,” said Du Plessis.
The Proteas were looking at a total of 280 with Du Plessis and Amla together, but once they were out within four overs of each other, the tourists assumed control.
The last eight South African wickets fell for 45 runs in 15.1 overs.
Pakistan’s spinners Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan bowled 19 overs between them picking up three wickets, and the pressure they created helped Usman Shanwari, who came into the side for Hasan Ali, finish with 4/35, all his wickets coming in a six-ball burst to finish off the innings.
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While disappointed, Du Plessis was also hopeful about the lessons many of the inexperienced players were learning.
“You only get better by doing it wrong in a situation and trying to improve from that, that’s how you learn at international cricket. We’ve had a couple of departments that have been very, very inconsistent. It’s not what I’d call a concern at this point.
“Pakistan have been a little bit more consistent than us at the moment,” Du Plessis added.
The fifth and deciding match will be played at Newlands on Wednesday, with Du Plessis saying it presented the side with a terrific opportunity.
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“It’s one thing we’ve done well recently; in Australia, we discussed that it was 1-1 in the series. It’s almost like a knockout game, and we want to make sure we get better at those games – the ones where if you lose, you’re out.
“It’s 2-2, if you lose (at Newlands), you lose the series, and that’s nice pressure for us to go through as a team.”