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Ballistic batting sets up crushing SA win

South Africa 392 for 6 (Kallis 88*, Boucher 78, Smith 72, de Villiers 67) beat Pakistan 228 (Malik 52, Kallis 3-34, Ntini 3-51) by 164 runs

South Africa toyed, tormented and eventually tore apart Pakistan in as brutal a manner as can ever have been experienced by either side, annihilating them by 164 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series. The final margin wasn't quite Pakistan's heaviest-ever defeat, nor South Africa's biggest-ever win but in spirit it deserved to be both.

The only thing that went right for Inzamam-ul-Haq was the toss, though it will be of little consolation to him that Graeme Smith would also have fielded first. Thereafter only one side was ever in it. First South Africa's openers continued to traumatise Pakistan before Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis ended the innings in a magnificent, fury-filled blitz as Pakistan conceded their largest ODI total ever.

The signs were ominous from the off; Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman had drilled Pakistan into submission at the Wanderers in the Twenty20, but here Smith was joined by AB de Villiers as they pillaged 140 for the first wicket from 18 mostly beleaguered Pakistan overs.

Smith's100th ODI was suitably celebratory; his last ten ODIs had yielded but two fifties and a measly average of less than 25 but he launching an astonishing, violent attack against a woeful Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.

The initiative had to be seized for de Villiers was edgy to begin. Of the nine boundaries and a six in the first ten overs, only two came from de Villiers's bat. But once he had hoicked Naved-ul-Hasan for six in the tenth over, he was similarly unburdened.

After the drinks break, Pakistan short-circuited, conceding 42 runs from two overs. Smith dished out an obscene hiding to Naved-ul-Hasan, driving, cutting, pulling and edging six boundaries and bringing up a fifty off 38 balls in a 27-run over. Unbelievably, it was to be only the second-most expensive over of the innings.

Spin, and Mohammad Hafeez particularly, calmed things a little. Three wickets fell, boundaries dried up, as Kallis and Ashwell Prince put on a pleasant 68-run partnership, big on singles, low on pyrotechnics. Indeed when Shahid Afridi finished a spell that cost 42 and brought two wickets, Pakistan grasped on to a smidgeon of hope. Then Boucher walked out.

Almost immediately he tore into the bowlers and with Kallis, similarly emboldened, he added 128 runs in just over ten overs. Kallis ended unbeaten on 88 but Boucher's 38-ball 78 was the one. Hafeez was ravaged first before Mohammad Sami received similar treatment soon after, though he was unlucky to see Younis Khan drop a chance, with Boucher on 24.

No-one was spared thereafter. It wasn't pretty, composed as it was of bludgeons, slogs and heaves but with results like his, method could be damned. At that stage, each over went for progressively more runs until it all crescendoed with a 28-run over off Mohammad Asif. By the end, as Naved-ul-Hasan spontaneously combusted with a cacophony of no-balls and wides, even Kallis was lifting leisurely sixes out of the ground.

By bowling with the collective nous of circus seals, Pakistan didn't help, liberally mixing no-balls, juicy half-volleys, wides and juicy full tosses. The last ten overs yielded 146 runs, Sami and Naved-ul-Hasan hemorrhaging 160 runs from their 15 overs.

Effectively, that was the match, the chase a wholly improbable prospect, a pipe dream even for a batting line-up as deep as Pakistan's. A succession of top-order men came, swung their bats as freely as doomed men might and duly trudged off. Boundaries were plentiful, from the bats of Kamran Akmal, Hafeez, Afridi and Mohammad Yousuf. Predictably none suggested any kind of permanency and halfway through, on a blameless track they were eight down, as sorry a state of affairs as can be imagined. The lower-order didn't so much defy, as prolong the agony for all concerned, the efforts of Shoaib Malik and Sami being ultimately, pointless

South Africa had sussed out that the pitch wasn't providing any favours for bowlers, so their fielders obliged instead. Makhaya Ntini once again played gang leader, taking three top-order wickets, but Jonty Rhodes and South Africa will likely celebrate four wonderful outfield catches just as much. And they barely conceded a peep in extras.

This series is meant to be the final opportunity for both sides to tinker with their combinations before the World Cup. On today's evidence, Pakistan would be better advised to go home now and skip the World Cup altogether. The hosts might be inclined to bottle up the form they showed with bat, ball and in the field and catch the next flight out to the Caribbean.



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