By our correspondent
LAHORE: South Africa put themselves on the brink of semi-finals spot when they snatched a one wicket win from Pakistan in their World Cup game on Chennai thanks to a fine knock from Aiden Markram.
The win also broke the 24-year World Cup jinx against Pakistan in what was the finest game of the ongoing World Cup.
South Africa began well chasing 271 on Friday as Quinton de Kock (24) and Temba Bavuma (28) landed early blows before Pakistan struck back with timely wickets, but Markram (91) held his nerve to take them close and they eventually got home in 47.2 overs.
Usama Mir (2-45) came on as a concussion substitute after Shadab Khan hurt himself fielding and he got rid of Rassie van der Dussen and took a catch to dismiss Heinrich Klaasen while David Miller (29) and Marco Jansen (20) departed after cameos.
But the Proteas would not be denied a first victory batting second in the event, despite Markram falling to Usama and Gerald Coetzee to Shaheen Afridi (3-45), as Keshav Maharaj and player of the match Tabraiz Shamsi hung on to settle the tense game.
Pakistan fell to their fourth successive defeat as Maharaj hit a four off his legs but Haris Rauf (2-62) nearly won it for them towards the end with a diving catch to send back Lungi Ngidi before number 11 Shamsi survived a review for lbw.
“It’s a bit of chaos [in the dressing room] at the moment, the guys are enjoying the moment, guys picking up Shamsi,” said South Africa skipper Bavuma. “Nail-biting finish, if you’re a South African fan, you’re a little bit happier with the outcome.
Bavuma said slipping to 250-8 after looking comfortable at one stage was a problem of South Africa’s own making and added that they would need to address their issues.
“There’s obviously been pressure with us chasing,” he said. “We haven’t done well to rectify that. We’ll have conversations. It’ll be easier to have those conversations now with the win.”
Pakistan were in trouble at 141-5 but Saud Shakeel (52) and Shadab (43) stitched together an 84-run stand with some powerful strokeplay at the MA Chidambaram Stadium to guide the 1992 champions to 270 all out in 46.4 overs.
Pakistan were undone at the end by the impressive Shamsi (4-60) and Gerald Coetzee (2-42), who dismissed the in-form pair, as they ultimately fell short of an imposing total when Mohammad Nawaz (24) threw his wicket away.
Pakistan team director Mickey Arthur warned against a “witch-hunt” of his team after their World Cup dream suffered a likely fatal blow.
They will have to win their remaining three matches and hope other results go their way if they are to sneak into the semifinals.
“They’re going to be blaming everybody, don’t worry. It’s just the way of the world,” said Arthur.
“It’s really unfair to start a witch-hunt, certainly on [captain] Babar Azam, on ‘Inzi’ [chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq], on our coaches, on the management team.
“What I do know is the boys have tried and the effort of the coaching staff, the effort of the players has been first-class. If they would see that the amount of effort that the players and staff put in,” he said.
By our correspondent