Shaun Pollock, supported by an assembly line of bristling seamers, set Pakistan up for the kill, before South Africa's openers finished it with a lack of mercy that Jack the Ripper would've shivered at. Pakistan were trounced, ultimately, by ten wickets with 36 overs to spare at Cape Town, South Africa taking a 2-1 series lead with one match left to play.
As with the series opening result at Centurion, numbers couldn't fully convey the carnage. In the end, as Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers rained down a glut of boundaries, it seemed as if the Twenty20 game that started this series with the same result and manner was being replayed.
But it was indisputably Pollock though who set up the romp, and in particular his first eight overs, which gave up but eight runs and took two wickets. Smith won a welcome first toss of the series and put Pakistan in under a gloomy sky, on a spicy pitch; a Pollock special he hoped for and a Pollock special he got.
Bowling machines have been known to stray more than Pollock did, so precise were his lines and lengths. A little extra movement meant no batsman was ever in any control. He conceded his first run in only his fourth over, that too off a wide. By then, Imran Nazir had already gone in an exemplary first over, memories of the Durban spanking quickly receding. Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan were beaten for fun and at one stage, just getting bat on ball was surprise enough. When Younis did bunt one to short cover, the novelty was such that Akmal took off for a single that wasn't. He slipped, Herschelle Gibbs didn't.
Eight for two after 10 overs captured Pakistan's struggle like no words could. Mohammad Yousuf loosened the shackles a touch driving Pollock for the first boundary in the morning's 11th over, but it was the briefest riposte. Pollock lured Younis into a misguided drive and if Pakistan were relieved that this was the penultimate over of a spell which included four maidens, they were in for a rude shock: to their dismay, the back-up was in no form to be considered that.
Andrew Hall and Charl Langeveldt teased batsmen with skiddy pace and a hustling, bustling discipline. Having bowled five overs between them for merely 11 runs, Hall soon struck gold. Yousuf had just clipped him through midwicket politely, before he opened the bat-face and edged behind.
That left South Africa fully on top, Pakistan seeking solace in isolated moments of batting parity with a series of scrambled singles and doubles. Inzamam-ul-Haq hung in, though visually his stand resembled that of the sole protestor's standing in front of the tank at Tianamen Square. Symbolically, it was much less. Shoaib Malik helped offer cursory resistance in a 46-run mid-innings stand, but as he fell to Justin Kemp, even that hope frittered away.
Run-scoring had hardly been hurried before, but it became a tortuously slow drip. Kemp, Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini tightened their grip, Inzamam drew further into himself, wickets fell to loose shots and South Africa, led by de Villiers, relentlessly hounded Pakistan from the field.
Famously multi-skilled, de Villiers's fielding aptitude must be a first among equals. If ever one has so frustrated a batting side, it was de Villiers today, preventing any number of runs at cover and midwicket through the day. Behind the stumps, Mark Boucher threw in his take on Pollock's consistency, becoming only the fourth keeper in ODI history to take six catches.
de Villiers then put on his batting hat, and by the end of the first over, with a cracking cover drive, had helped South Africa to more runs (11) than Pakistan made in ten. With a series of hoisted pulls to balls that weren't always short, he raced away. As he was pulling Abdur Rehman in the 11th over, South Africa had hit the same number of boundaries as Pakistan managed in their entire innings. With a straight, lofted six next ball, they had overtaken the boundary count.
Smith finished it with the dexterity of a butcher and in timely fashion both men completed their fifties within a ball of each other in the last over. It completed a neat full circle for Pakistan, who in a week went from utterly hopeless in Centurion to the sublime in Durban, to the competitive in Port Elizabeth and finally back to the utterly hopeless here.