Pakistan in South Africa: Five Memorable ODIs

World Cup and Champions Trophy encounters, bilateral series victory – We look back at some of the finest ODIs Pakistan have been involved in ahead of the upcoming ODI series

Pakistan have played a staggeringly low amount of ODI cricket in the last couple of years. Since the 2019 World Cup, the Green Shirts have had just two home ODI series, one apiece against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. As expected, both series were won by Pakistan. The upcoming ODI series in South Africa will be the first away ODI series for Babar Azam’s men since the World Cup. Overall, Pakistan have played 54 ODIs in South Africa and won 22 of them. Let us look back at some of the most memorable 50-over matches Pakistan has been involved in in South Africa.

1. Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf Put India To the Sword

Series: ICC Champions Trophy 2009 (Group Stage)

Date: 26 September 2009

Venue: SuperSport Park, Centurion

India got their Champions Trophy campaign underway against arch-rivals Pakistan, who were coming off a convincing victory against West Indies in their opening fixture. Younis Khan’s men were looking to make it two wins out of two and had an extra incentive to beat the MS Dhoni-led side as they knew a victory would all but seal their spot in the semi-finals. After winning the toss, Pakistan found themselves in a precarious position when Younis Khan was dismissed, leaving the Green Shirts at 65-3. From that point onwards, it was the Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf show. Shoaib Malik took his time to settle, with his strike rate hovering around 50 for the first part of his innings. Still, he found an ally in Mohammad Yousuf, who himself hadn’t been in the best of touch before the tournament, and they both shifted gears toward the latter part of the innings as they put the Indian bowling attack to the sword.

Harbhajan Singh, in particular, had a day to forget. Malik and Yousuf were eventually dismissed for 128 (126) and 87 (88), respectively. However, the lower order failed to capitalize on the mentally and physically fatigued bowlers, but the 206-run partnership had already done the damage. Pakistan finished on 302-9.

Pakistan’s defense got off to a stunning start when a young, long-haired pace bowling sensation called Mohammad Amir had unarguably one of the greatest batsmen of all time edging behind to Kamran Akmal.

After that early loss of Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid took advantage of some sloppy bowling – Pakistan in total bowled seven no-balls – and Gambhir especially was bringing the RRR down as the Pakistan bowlers were rattled. The left-hander was looking in imperious touch and only returned to the pavilion after a mix-up with Dravid saw him run out, perhaps the only way Pakistan were going to see the back of him, following a direct hit from Younis Khan at mid-off.

Following his dismissal, India never looked in control of the game despite a quick 46 by Suresh Raina. When Rahul Dravid was run out for 76, it was a matter of when, not if for Pakistan, who wrapped up a memorable 54-run victory.


2. Sachin Tendulkar’s World Cup Masterclass

Series: ICC World Cup 2003 (Group Stage)

Date: 01 March 2003

Venue: SuperSport Park, Centurion

It’s a World Cup match. You’re playing against your arch-rivals. The opposition bowling line-up has three deadly pacers in Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar. One argument commonly used against Sachin Tendulkar was his inability to win games for India - many of his critics are quick to point out that many of his high scores came in losing causes. However, if you ever need a counterargument against this, look no further than his sensational match-winning innings against Pakistan at SuperSport Park in 2003. He showed just how classy a batsman he really was.

Having won the toss and elected to bat first, Pakistan reached a healthy total of 273-7 from their 50 overs. They had Saeed Anwar to be grateful for as the opener scored his 20th ODI century, incidentally the final century of his career, and the left-hander finished on 101 off 126 balls. None of the other batsmen found it easy to get going; the next best score after Anwar was Younis Khan’s 32.

In their pursuit of 274, India went all guns blazing from the very start, with openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar getting them to 50-0 off just five overs. The way Sachin Tendulkar dominated speedster Shoaib Akhtar would become one of the iconic India-Pakistan moments, especially his cut shot that went for six over the square third-man boundary.

However, in just his 2nd over, Waqar Younis threatened to turn the game on its head when he removed Virender Sehwag for 21 and opposite captain Sourav Ganguly for a golden duck on the very next ball. However, India cruised to a 6-wicket victory courtesy of a Sachin Tendulkar masterclass. He didn’t get the century he deserved, but his magnificent 75-ball 98 remains one of the greatest World Cup innings ever. Fans lucky enough to witness his innings live at SuperSport Park will remember it forever.


3. History for Pakistan!

Series: Pakistan tour of South Africa 2013 (2nd ODI)

Date: 27 November 2013

Venue: St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth

As is also the case this year, Pakistan’s next international assignment after a home series against South Africa back in 2013 was… an away series against South Africa! Having been brushed aside 4-1 in their ‘home’ series in the UAE just a few weeks earlier, surely it would be more of the same, in what would have been more familiar conditions for the Proteas, as well as the presence of a now-taken-for-granted home crowd, right? Wrong. This is the Pakistan cricket team we are talking about, after all.

Having taken a 1-0 series lead in the thrilling series opener in a victory set up by debutants Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali, Pakistan knew they would need to just win one of the remaining two games to become the first Asian side to win an ODI series in South Africa.

The match was reduced to 45 overs a side due to rain. Having been put in to bat first, Pakistan lost Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez early on. However, a partnership of 124 between Sohaib Maqsood and Ahmed Shehzad put the visitors on track for a big total. Ahmed Shehzad batted particularly well and was eventually run out for 102 off 112 balls.

But, South Africa fought back strongly, with Dale Steyn picking up career-best figures of 6/39. Pakistan finished on 262, losing their last wicket on the final ball of their innings. South Africa would have been happy restricting Pakistan to that total, considering they were well set at 146-2 after 28 overs.

South Africa’s chase of 263 started with Junaid Khan dismissing Graeme Smith early. Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla combined for a steady partnership of 87, but Shahid Afridi removed the wicket-keeper and then took out Jacques Kallis for just 6. This left the hosts at 117-3 off 25.4 overs, and Pakistan began to dream.

Enter Abraham Benjamin de Villiers. South Africa’s captain played the type of innings that gave him the name Mr. 360, and there was no hiding place for the Pakistan bowlers. He joined forces with Hashim Amla as the pair put on a partnership worth 110 in just 13 overs, putting the game seemingly back in South Africa’s hands. Although he was eventually dismissed for a stunning 45-ball 74, trying to play one cheeky shot too many, it seemed like he had done enough damage.

Off the last six overs, South Africa needed just 35 to win with a set Hashim Amla still at the crease and six wickets in hand. However, Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan had other ideas, as they stifled the South African batsmen, and suddenly the boundaries started to dry up. Ajmal removed Hashim Amla for a well-made 98 off the final ball of the penultimate over, leaving the hosts with 9 to get off the final 6 balls.

Junaid Khan displayed nerves of steel with the ball, and the match culminated in David Miller requiring a six off the final delivery for a series-leveling victory. Could he pull it off? No, he couldn’t. Junaid Khan fired in yet another yorker. The ball raced away to the boundary for 4 leg byes, sparking exuberant celebrations across the Pakistan camp. The thrilling one-run victory saw Misbah-ul-Haq’s men became the first-ever Asian side to win a series in South Africa! As for AB de Villiers’ men, without using that word, it would be fair to say they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, as they were left to dwell on a seemingly improbable defeat.


4. Pakistan end South Africa’s Pink Day Streak

Series: Pakistan tour of South Africa 2019 (4th ODI)

Date: 27 January 2019

Venue: The Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg

Losing the 3rd ODI of the series, which was heading for a close finish when rain saw South Africa win courtesy of just being ahead of the DLS par score, would have no doubt been demoralizing for Pakistan. They had surrendered a 1-0 lead to go 2-1 down in the five-match battle. To make matters worse, just hours ahead of the 4th ODI, captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was handed a ban. He was guilty of making an inappropriate comment earlier that series towards Andile Phehlukwayo. Oh, and to top it all off, South Africa had never lost a ‘Pink Day’ ODI before – an annual tradition to raise awareness for breast cancer.

With all the odds stacked against Pakistan, stand-in captain Shoaib Malik won the toss and elected to field first. Shaheen Shah Afridi removed Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks early on, leaving Faf du Plessis’ men reeling at 18-2 off 5.1 overs. However, it was another left-arm Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa-born pacer who would go on to steal the show.

Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla put on a 101-run partnership before Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim dismissed them, respectively. Mohammad Amir also removed David Miller shortly after. Hence, South Africa slipped from 119-2 to 140-5, with still just under 20 overs to go. This set the scene for Usman Shinwari, who burst through the South African lower order as Pakistan skittled the hosts out for 164 with nine overs to spare. Shinwari, who was at one point on a hat-trick, took all 4 of his wickets within 6 balls, as he finished with superb figures of 4-35 from his 7 overs.

South Africa knew the only way to pull off an unlikely victory would be to take early wickets. However, an opening partnership of 70 between Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman set the tone for a resounding victory. Imam-ul-Haq fell with the scores level, but stand-in wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan creamed his only ball past point for a boundary to seal a huge 8-wicket victory with more than 18 overs to spare. South Africa’s unbeaten streak on Pink Day came to an end and in some style.


5. Inzamam-ul-Haq Century Leads the Way for Pakistan’s Highest ODI Chase

Series: Standard Bank Series 1998 (3rd ODI)

Date: 07 April 1998

Venue: Diamond Oval, Kimberley

In an era where T20 cricket didn’t even exist, and there was more of a balance between bat and ball, a first-innings total of 295/7 was, more often than not, enough to win you a game. World Champions at the time, Sri Lanka would have felt confident after a strong showing by the top order lifted them to the highly competitive total in the third ODI of the tri-series, also featuring South Africa.

Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga was the pick of the batsmen, making 86 in just 82 balls. Wasim Akram had excellent figures of 3-53, but the rest of the bowling line-up were slightly below their best.

In the chase of 296, when Abdul Razzaq fell, Pakistan were 46-2 and had their backs against the wall. However, Inzamam-ul-Haq played a majestic innings. He combined pure timing with brute power against a bowling line-up with the likes of Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan as the middle order batted around him. Ijaz Ahmed’s innings also deserves a mention, with the number 3 scoring 59 off just 55 balls.

A quick cameo from Wasim Akram finished the job, with the left-hander finishing on 19* from just 7 balls, including the victory-sealing six to top off a good all-round performance from him as Pakistan emerged victorious by four wickets. Inzamam-ul-Haq was named Man of the Match. His fantastic unbeaten 116 from just 110 balls helped Pakistan register their highest-ever ODI run chase at the time and the joint-fourth highest for any team!