Auckland, Mar 7: A spirited Pakistan put their ICC World Cup campaign back on track with an upset 29-run win via Duckworth/Lewis method over South Africa in a thrilling Pool B match, here today.
Put into bat in a rain-hit encounter, Pakistan rode on Misbah-ul-Haq's 56 to post 222 all out in 46.4 overs and then packed South Africa for 202 in 33.3 overs in the 47 overs-a-side game.
Chasing a revised 232-run target, Proteas innings fell apart in the face of some excellent Pakistan bowling as captain AB de Villiers' valiant 77 went in vain on a lively Eden park track.
Pace spearhead Mohammad Irfan (3-52), left-arm pacers Rahat Ali (3-40) and Wahab Riaz (3-45) bagged three wickets each.
New-ball bowler Sohail Khan (1-36) got the all-important wicket of de Villiers in the 33rd over. South Africa were in neck deep trouble at 138 for seven, before de Villiers stuck to his guns, forming crucial partnerships with Dale Steyn (16), Kyle Abbott (12) and Morne Morkel (6 not out) for the seventh, eight and ninth wickets respectively.
But it was Pakistan's day after Irfan, Rahat and Riaz ran through the South African top-order of Quinton de Kock (0), Hashim Amla (38) and Faf du Plessis (27) to put the African giants in early trouble.
The pace trio got the crucial breakthroughs at regular intervals to enable Pakistan register their third win in five games and rise to third spot in the table led by India.
Earlier, Pakistan showed some application when they batted after wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed, who took a record-equalling six catches behind the stumps, gave the team a good start with a gritty 49.
Younis Khan (37) and Shahid Afridi (22) also chipped in with crucial scores apart from Misbah's patient half-century that did the trick for the Men in Green.
Three wickets for Steyn
Dale Steyn, who bagged three wickets in the Pakistan innings, was also responsible for opener Ahmed Shehzad's (18) scalp with a breathtaking catch in the outfield.
South Africa, who comfortably won their games against Zimbabwe, West Indies and Ireland, are placed on second position. They had lost to India and now Pakistan.
For Pakistan, Misbah in his 86-ball stay not only bagged 5,000 ODI runs but also tried hard to hold the innings together. Interestingly the batsman, who has 42 ODI fifties under his belt, is devoid of a single century in the 50-over format.
The innings though saw just a few partnerships prosper as Sarfaraz and Younis stitched up a 62-run second wicket stand and then Misbah was involved in a few stand-ins with Younis and Afridi.
But the partnerships were few and far between as Steyn and company proved to too hot to handle for the frail Pakistan batting.
Steyn was ably supported by new-ball partner Abbott (2-40) and first-change medium pacer Morne (2-25) as leg-spinner Imran Tahir (1-38) and medium-pacer de Villers (1-43) also chipped in with crucial strikes.
Good running catch by Steyn
The Proteas fielding also lived up to its reputation with Steyn picking up a good running catch to send back opener Shehzad and then Rilee Rossouw snapped up Younis at cover.
But Steyn's effort will certainly be rated high in this tournament as the supreme athlete pulled off a breathtaking catch while running away towards long on in an attempt to get at Shehzad's mistimed chip over midwicket.
In the end he was able to dive with both hands outstretched to pluck the white ball just inches from the ground. The innings saw two rain stops in the 37th and the 41st over.
But the rain breaks only helped South Africa get back at Pakistan, who once again floundered to a below-par score in the 50-over showpiece event only to defend it later.