x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Pakistan batsmen fall flat against a depleted bowling attack while Proteas captain shines in Sharjah, reports Paul Radley.

South Afica's AB de Villiers plays a shot during their match against Pakistan  at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Monday. Pawan Singh  /  The National
South Afica's AB de Villiers plays a shot during their match against Pakistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Monday. Pawan Singh / The National

SHARJAH // Misbah-ul-Haq may represent the one consistently reliable figure in Pakistan’s batting line up, but the captain said their pallid 4-1 series defeat to South Africa here is ultimately his responsibility.

The host team capped off a miserable one-day international series in the UAE by being thrashed by 117 runs in Sharjah on Monday night.

Pakistan’s misfiring batsmen could only manage 151 against an attack deprived of its two leading pace bowlers, and Misbah said the continued failures fall on his shoulders.

“As a leader you have to take the blame,” he said. “You win as a team and you lose as a team, but as captain, you have to take responsibility for that.”

The main difference between the two sides this time around was Misbah’s opposite number, AB de Villiers.

The novelty of destructive hitting in the death overs of one-day cricket has long since worn off.

During the Australia matches in India earlier this month, the joy of six became completely passe, or mundane even.

Yet every so often someone does something that harks back to the times when batsmen had to earn their runs.

De Villiers’s innings of 115 from 102 deliveries in Sharjah was one such effort, a triumph for creative thinking and hand-eye coordination over a turgid pitch and wily bowling attack.

It illuminated a dead-rubber which had otherwise provided a forgettable end to a generally drab limited-overs series.

“When you pull on this shirt and play against this standard of opposition it is not too hard to get the competitive juices flowing,” De Villiers said.

Throughout the entirety of his knock, the South Africa captain was proactive. The bowlers are canny enough to know where to bowl to strangle the scoring rate, so De Villiers made his own lines instead.

He was quicker on his feet than a holiday-maker ooh-ahhing their way across the scorched sand of Jumeirah Beach on a summer’s day. The Pakistan bowlers could not keep up with their moving target.

He paced his innings perfectly, even if he did need a desperate dive to make his ground on 97 when running a three to get on strike with four balls remaining in the innings.

It shows how well he was seeing the ball that he hit the last four balls off Sohail Tanvir for a combined tally of 20, hoisting his side to a total of 268 which is comfortably above the first-innings average in day-night games here.

Safe to say, it was always going to be more than enough for this muddled Pakistan batting line-up. Even without either of Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel, who usually spearhead the Proteas pace attack. They were both rested here ahead of fixtures which matter.

Despite another promising display by burly newcomer Sohaib Maqsood, the Pakistan run chase had already petered out before it even got started. It was eventually aborted for good on 151.

“South Africa played really well, they outplayed us and deserved to win the series,” Misbah said. “We really need to work harder in the middie-order. With this batting order as it is, we really need to do something if we are going to improve [in the Twenty20 series, starting tomorrow in Dubai].”

The fact Ryan McLaren, the all-rounder who is one of the lesser heralded players in the South Africa team, was named man of the series proves the depth of resources the Proteas enjoy.

“It is great to have the depth we have in the bowling department,” McLaren said. “We’ve managed to bowl well in partnerships and each guys is understanding his role in the team.”


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