Oh dear oh dear. Cue the "chokers" tag again. Start up the printing presses that exclaim "South Africa fold under pressure again!" It has come to that time of the World Cup when those outside of the team - and very possibly those within the team - will start to question the theoretical favouritism this team has carried with it for so long, and whether we are about to see yet another spectacular implosion at a international cricket event.
Twice in this World Cup South Africa has been asked to bat second - this time of their own volition - and both times they have been found out. Spectacularly so too. Pakistan played steadily and less spectacularly. Their batsmen were kept under reasonable control for the majority of the innings. Their run rate was just over 5 for most of the innings up until the 35th over, with five wickets already back in the shed. Skipper Misbah once again played the steadying influence, with yet another ODI half century. The rain break came at a very inopportune moment for them, just as Misbah and Afridi had started the acceleration. When they returned to the field, all momentum had been lost, and the final wickets fell, such that Pakistan was bowled out for 222 in their final over, which had been reset back to 47 overs a side after the time lost. Duckworth-Lewis revised this total up to 231, leaving South Africa the rather comfortable total of 232 required from 47 overs.
But the batsmen fell to the pressure - and it must be said excellent bowling from Pakistan. Quinton de Kock failed again, and one wonders how much longer South Africa can continue to leave him in the opening position, or perhaps even in the team itself. Amla and du Plessis recovered, only to fall within four balls of each other, and then quickly followed by Rossouw and Miller. South Africa had lost 4/10 in 33 balls, and when Duminy went at 102, only a superman could have gotten them home. In his mild mannered guise as AB de Villiers, 'Superman' did his utmost, and helped by Steyn, Abbot and Morkel he managed to get the score to within sight of victory at 200 before he was finally dismissed for another remarkable innings of 77 off 58 balls.
Pakistan's pace attack was fantastic, exploiting the conditions brilliantly, and attacking at all times, knowing they had to bowl their opponents out to win the game. They left nothing in the bag, and fully deserved their win. It also puts them back into a finals position in Group B, where a loss could have been fatal. South Africa now have to find another way to recover. They have lost to India and Pakistan, and while they were tough matches, it was expected that they would win both of them. perhaps a month of playing the lacklustre West Indies team has not been the best preparation for this tournament after all. There will a lot of soul searching in the coming days, in an attempt to eradicate any sense of foreboding, or the mention of the word "chokers".