Pakistan win over South Africa put them back into the World Cup race. Photo: ICC

Pakistan announced themselves as serious World Cup contenders when they beat the Castle Lager Proteas by 29 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method at Auckland’s Eden Gardens on Saturday.

This was the second low-scoring thriller at this venue following last weekend’s game between Australia and New Zealand and proved once more that by far the best One-Day Internationals are those that provide an even contest between bat and ball.

This was certainly the case here with the quick bowlers on both sides accounting for 17 of the 20 wickets that fell in the match. This was backed up by Pakistan’s man of the match, Sarfraz Ahmed, taking six catches behind the stumps to back up his run-a-ball innings of 49. This performance equaled the World Cup record established by Australia’s Adam Gilchrist in 2003.

The Proteas still have what should be a banker against United Arab Emirates on Thursday to clinch their quarter-final place and they should still retain their second spot on the Pool B log.

Pakistan are third behind the Proteas on net run rate but they will back themselves to win their remaining game against Ireland. The latter could also get to six points if they win their match today against Zimbabwe but they have a tough run-in against Pakistan and India.

West Indies also remain in the running with their outstanding match against the United Arab Emirates as well.

Ironically, on a day on which their batsmen failed to put together the partnerships expected of them, the Proteas bowled exceptionally well at the death, taking 5/25 collectively in the last 7 overs after two rain delays had reduced the match to 47 overs per side.

The Proteas made a good enough start to their runs chase when Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis added 67 for the second wicket in only 9.1 overs but they then suffered a disastrous collapse when they lost 4 wickets for 10 runs in 6 overs.

AB de Villiers continued his run of form (77 off 58 balls, 7 fours and 5 sixes) but there was nobody to support him against a firing Pakistan attack in which the three left-arm seamers – Mohammed Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Rahat Ali – took three wickets each while Sohail Khan took the key wicket of De Villiers.

The latter completed his 1 000th World Cup run when he reached 34 and is now the leading runs scorer in the competition. The Proteas have three of the top four with Amla second and Du Plessis joint fourth with Misbah-ul-Haq.

What today’s result has probably settled is the debate on the balance of the side with the Proteas opting for seven specialist batsmen rather than five specialist bowlers.