South Africa open series with a stroll
At least the road network has been built. The foundations of Pakistan's cricket team, however, are still suffering from a severe case of subsidence.
With most of their leading stars absent due to a variety of suspension, non-selection or injury, all Pakistan have been left with is a confused mulch.
Last night, Misbah-ul-Haq, their Test captain, batted as though he was playing a Test innings. Afridi, the Twenty20 captain, batted as though he was playing his own game of Five5. And the impact of the other also-rans was so negligible they might as well have stayed at home in Pakistan.
As a result, South Africa's emerging side, which was itself shorn of the injured Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis, barely needed to get out of third gear to seal a six-wicket win.
A meeting of the sides with the two highest win percentages in the brief history of the 20-over format was settled by a duo of left-handers. The merits of one, JP Duminy, who made 41, are well known.
The other, Colin Ingram, is a 25-year-old newcomer who marked himself out as a player of fine promise with a match-winning 46 not out. A third leftie, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, the seam-bowler, had also been the chief-destroyer with the ball, as he took three wickets.
To think the South Africans had been criticised for falling fielding standards of late is remarkable on this evidence.
The MCC could have written a new coaching manual based around their display in the field, with at least a chapter devoted to each of Duminy and David Miller.
Duminy held two catches of contrasting style, yet they were equally brilliant. First, he tracked back 30 yards from his position at point to take a steepling chance off Shahzaib Hasan while tumbling towards the boundary rope.
Later, he leapt to hold a sharp chance close in at backward point to dismiss Zulqarnain Haider off Morne Morkel. Miller then gave his star turn, as he threw down the stumps of Saeed Ajmal and then Shoaib Akhtar to end Pakistan's effort at 119 with two balls to spare.
As if to make a point of the vast difference between the sides, Ajmal let the simplest stop dribble through his hands to get the South African reply up and running with a boundary.
Given their troubled build up to this series, Pakistan's players would have been forgiven for feeling nervous when they walked to the crease.
However, they were gifted the easiest of starts thanks to the benevolence of Albie Morkel. The all-rounder took the new ball and proceeded to send down four wides in his first over, and was lucky not to leak another besides.
When he did locate the batsman, it was generally directed at their pads, and Imran Farhat helped himself to two fours to compound the bowler's problems. Albie was immediately dispatched to be replaced by his brother, Morne. However, the junior sibling initially fared little better, as his over-stepping problem returned at a cost of three no-balls - and consequently three free-hits.
Against any other side, such profligacy would probably have been punished. However, this was down-on-their-luck Pakistan, and despite the jump-start they were given, they failed to capitalise.
Typically, Afridi hurried in, then hurried back out again, taking three sixes from his opposite number, Johan Botha, in a seven-ball stay worth 25. When he went, the life was sucked out of the Pakistan effort.
South Africa stuttered over the first half of their innings, in the face of a characteristically hostile spell from Shoaib Akhtar.
However, once Duminy and Ingram had set their platform, their 66-run alliance proved decisive.
Published: October 27, 2010 04:00 AM