Pakistan may soon follow Sunday's opponents out of semi-final contention yet they eased to a 49-run victory, their 308-7 never under threat. South Africa finished on 259-9.
Defeats to England, Bangladesh, India and New Zealand put South Africa in a perilous position before this game. They have fixtures against Sri Lanka and Australia to come, but surely cannot get home soon enough now mathematical hopes of advancing from the group stage are over.
The South Africans edged Pakistan 3-2 in a home ODI series in January but their bowling - without the injured Dale Steyn - has failed to impress at the World Cup.
keep their #CWC19 semi-final hopes alive!
They beat by 49 runs, with Amir and Riaz among the wickets after half-centuries from Sohail and Azam took them to 308/7. #WeHaveWeWill pic.twitter.com/vjJgNm11Cb
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) June 23, 2019
Pakistan chose to bat and openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman both made 44 before falling to Imran Tahir, who in the process became South Africa's leading wicket-taker in World Cup history. His 39 victims nudge Tahir ahead of Allan Donald.
Babar Azam scored 69 before Haris Sohail pummelled 89 from 59 balls, falling to the penultimate delivery of the innings when he slogged at Lungi Ngidi.
In reply, South Africa lost Hashim Amla to a duck at the start of the second over, Mohammad Amir given the lbw verdict after Pakistan went to a review.
And although Quinton de Kock and captain Faf du Plessis put on 87 for the second wicket, it was often slow going. De Kock went for 47 and Du Plessis for 63.
The scoreboard kept ticking over, the run rate kept climbing. South Africa were never at the races, typical of them in this ill-fated campaign.
PAKISTAN MUST KEEP BELIEVING
With matches against New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to come, Pakistan could still squeeze into the semi-finals. Their batting performance was solid enough in this match, albeit against a largely impotent attack, and if Amir can put the brakes on Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Co. at Edgbaston on Wednesday, then New Zealand's unbeaten start could be under threat. They have a glimmer of hope now.
Questions will be asked about where it all went wrong for South Africa. Dale Steyn's absence was a major blow to their hopes, but they began the tournament badly and lacked the guile to set the team back on a sure course. Will Du Plessis stay on as skipper? That is sure to come in for scrutiny, with Aiden Markram having been tipped in some quarters as a suitable replacement despite his struggles with the bat. The inquest can begin now.
Photo Getty Images. Caption: Grim-faced South Africa captain Faf du Plessis heads back to the dressing room