Cape Town – The Proteas produced by far their most complete performance of the entire series as they cruised to a seven-wicket victory with 10 overs to spare in the final ODI against Pakistan at Newlands this evening.
As it happened: Proteas v Pakistan, 5th ODI
The result gave them an overall 3-2 win over ICC Champions Trophy holders and was their fourth win in a row following their recent successes against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Australia.
Appropriately, this was the Proteas 50th victory over Pakistan in the ODI format.
The victory was also significant as far as the ICC Cricket World Cup prospects are concerned as the Proteas made significant changes both to their playing XI and to the tactics on the day.
They played all three batting all-rounders – Wiaan Mulder, Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo – in their squad in a bid to shorten their suspect lower order although as things turned out none of them was needed in that discipline.
It meant that David Miller, of their established top six, had to sit the game out.
What did it do, however, was to give the Proteas a six-man attack for the first time in the series and with it the flexibility that enabled Faf du Plessis to effectively change his tactics.
He opened the bowling with Imran Tahir and used his frontline attackers extensively in the first half of the Pakistan innings with Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada both bowling 7 overs out of the first 26.
The all-rounders also played their part, sharing five wickets between them with Phehlukwayo going past the milestone of 50 dismissals in the process.
Pakistan had the same batting problem that plagued them for most of their tour with wickets falling at regular intervals and only one partnership was posted in over 50 runs.
Fakhar Zaman, benefiting from a life on 20, made his team's top score of 70 (73 balls, 10 fours).
The Pakistan total of 240 looked on the light side and so it proved to be as the Proteas beat solidly throughout their top order, sparked by Quinton de Kock's first significant knock of the series (83 off 58 balls, 11 fours and 3 sixes).
Like Fakhar, he had his stroke of luck when he was caught in the covers on 12, only to be reprieved by a no ball referral.
He and Hashim Amla put on 39 for the first wicket and they were followed by stands of 61, 46 and finally an unbroken 95 between Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen.
Both batsmen reached their half-centuries with Van der Dussen finishing as South Africa's leading scorer in a magnificent debut series.
The Proteas will also take a lot of encouragement out of the fact that they played the Pakistan spinners effectively and with confidence – another important pointer looking ahead to the World Cup.
De Kock was named Man of the Match and Imam-ul-Haq the Man of the Series for being the leading running scorer.
Scores in brief:
Pakistan 240/8 in 50 overs (Fakhar 70, Phehlukwayo 2/42)
South Africa 241/3 in 40 overs (De Kock 83, Shaheen Shah Afridi 1/34)
South Africa won by 7 wickets
Toss: South Africa