South Africa, inspired equally by their pace attack and opening batsmen, crushed a bedraggled Pakistan by ten wickets in the only Twenty20 international at the Wanderers. After Alfonso Thomas led the bowlers in restricting Pakistan to a meager 129 for eight, Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman launched a spectacular attack against a rusty-looking attack to see South Africa home with 8.3 overs to spare, an absurdly large amount in such a short game.
The unbeaten stand between Smith and Bosman was the highest for any wicket in this form of the game and the margin of victory, the most emphatic in Twenty20 internationals. Ahead of a five-match ODI series, due to begin from Sunday, this was as forceful a statement of intent as any.
Smith's good work began early, winning a handy toss and inserting Pakistan in what appeared to be bowling-friendly conditions. Bowlers are meant to be fodder in this format, bowling straight and hoping for the best but they were liberated here. The ball swung and jagged so much, an attack of Shaun Pollock, Thomas, Roger Telemachus, Johan van der Wath and Albie Morkel effectively became spinners on speed.
Pollock was beating the bat from the start, making Imran Nazir's first over back in quasi-international cricket a particularly testing one. It was a brief return, as off the first ball of the second Thomas found Nazir's edge.
Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal, shorn of keeping duties, settled briefly for a 47-run stand. They mixed swipes with boundaries and singles before and when Hafeez pulled an easy six over square leg, Pakistan were progressing well. But that was only a precursor to an almighty totter.
Hafeez fell to Pollock, having brought the fifty up. van der Wath came, bringing pretty outswingers with him and had Akmal edging one immediately, giving de Villiers another opportunity to make a difficult catch look simple instead.
Telemachus was getting movement Murali would've been proud and with one sharply incoming concoction, he struck Shahid Afridi a painful blow in the groin, forcing him to retire hurt. Just before he finished, Telemachus ended a promising 26-run stand between Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik, either side of a 20-minute rain break. The bowlers continued to swing it, the batsmen to miss it; Morkel kept up the good work a lovely and the remaining batsmen were wrapped up quicker than you could say tail-end bunnies.
Whether it was the conditions or the bowling we'll never know, but when Smith and Bosman came out, they tore into Pakistan. Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Shabbir Ahmed began tightly but it wasn't to last.
Bosman sparked it, with a 16-run over from Naved-ul-Hasan, the fifth of the innings, inclusive of a fabulous pulled six. It rubbed off onto Smith who tonked 17 off the very next from Abdul Razzaq. Razzaq looked like a man who hadn't played in two months, dragging the ball short, allowing a pumped Smith to merrily ransack him repeatedly over and through midwicket. Having been so willing an hour or so earlier, Pakistan's bowlers found the pitch in no mood to be as friendly as it had been to their counterparts, offering little of the swing and none of the bite.
As fours and sixes rained down, Pakistan disintegrated, bowling short, serving up no-balls and misfielding with alarming regularity. Akmal continued his appalling catching form, dropping Bosman at long-on, in the ninth over. It hardly mattered that he was an outfielder, the game was up anyway. The openers brought up their fifties, and the team's hundred in the 10th over, and a few deliveries later sealed an emphatic win. Fittingly, they did so with another six.