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South Africa win opening ODI
18 Oct 2007
By: Richard Dickinson

South Africa scored a straightforward victory over Pakistan in the opening game of their 5-match ODI series, thanks to centuries from Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers and a mostly disciplined bowling performance. Gibbs and de Villiers stroked their side to a total of 294 for 5, then the bowlers reduced Pakistan to 172 for 7 after 38 overs before some pyrotechnics from Shahid Afridi and others cut the losing margin.

Pakistan's top-order had caved-in, restricted by some typically miserly bowling from Shaun Pollock, while Makhaya Ntini, unusually, took wickets despite going around the park. Despite conceding 10 off his opening over, 11 in his third and 8 in his sixth, in no time he had the top four back in the hutch, effectively condemning the home side to defeat inside 12 overs. Imran Nazir fell to a blinding catch by Justin Kemp at short-extra-cover, Younis Khan jabbed away from his body and edged behind, Mohammad Hafeez lamely pulled to square-leg, and Shoaib Malik got a leading-edge attempting to turn to leg to be caught at point. Pollock, meanwhile, bowled his opening 7 overs for 16.

The rest of the innings was little more than a vain attempt to salvage some pride. Just as Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq were beginning to put together a partnership, Charl Langeveldt, who consistently pitched too short, was rewarded for his indiscretion as Misbah skied a pull in the 21st over to give Mark Boucher a simple catch after a few steps back. Albie Morkel produced probably the best ODI bowling of his career, at least against serious opposition, while Johan Botha, playing his first game for South Africa since the VB Series of 2005\06, produced 7 increasingly impressive overs to keep Yousuf and Kamran Akmal quiet and ensure the rate spiralled up to 9-an-over. No sooner was Jacques Kallis introduced into the attack than he had 2 wickets, Yousuf flicking straight to Graeme Smith at mid-wicket just after completing his half-century and Akmal missing a massive heave at a slower-ball.

Afridi and Sohail Tanvir, on ODI debut, delayed the inevitable, with several massive strikes as Kallis suffered after his early breakthroughs and Ntini continued his expensive ways. Eventually Langeveldt pegged-back Tanvir's leg-stump as he shuffled across, and Morkel returned in the 46th to remove Afridi for a 26-ball 47. Botha grabbed the final wicket to seal a 45-run triumph.

The South Africans had started well, the floodgates opening in the 4th over as Rao Iftikhar Anjum conceded 8, then 14 in his next. Tanvir, when he wasn't bowling wides, impressed on debut, his first 6 overs going for just 21, though he was fortunate to get away with a no-ball when Gibbs completely miscued the free-hit. The solid and of times imposing start came to a disappointing end when Smith called Gibbs for a 2nd to deep-square-leg, was sent back and could not beat Hafeez's throw. Jacques Kallis could not immediately translate his Test form to the shorter format, and scooped an easy return-catch to Shahid Afridi in his 2nd over.

Gibbs and de Villiers were initially relatively quiet, though they kept the occasional boundary in between dot-balls, singles and the odd two in between the 19th and 27th overs. In the 28th, just after completing his half-century, Gibbs smashed Afridi for two boundaries, and this seemed to galvanise the pair; singles came easier from then on. The floodgates really opened in the 36th, as Umar Gul, never on the money all day, conceded 13, and in the 42nd over Gibbs completed his 18th ODI century. He fell soon after, slipping as he attempted a second to fine-leg, and Kemp fell, perhaps unfortunately, to give Tanvir his maiden ODI wicket as he was struck a fraction outside off-stump with the bowler wide of the crease. A second no-ball again failed to cost the bowler, but he, and Gul, and Rao, paid heftily in the final 4 overs, as de Villiers, with a bit of help from Boucher, crashed 46. Boucher fell to Rao off the last ball of the 49th, just before which de Villiers had completed a 93-ball century. It was a brilliant innings, upping the tempo at the perfect time, and leading his side to an imposing total on a pitch far from true. His side draw first blood and will hope to repeat the performance on Saturday at the same ground.

South Africa 294 for 5
Herschelle Gibbs 102, AB de Villiers 103*

Pakistan 249
Mohammad Yousuf 53, Shahid Afridi 47
Makhaya Ntini 9-69-4

South Africa won by 45 runs

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