Durban: A 153-run partnership between recalled opener Imran Farhat and captain Misbah-ul-Haq gave Pakistan a three-wicket win over South Africa in the fourth one-day international on Thursday, sending the series to a deciding game.
Farhat made 93 and Misbah 80 to help the Pakistanis to 236 for 7 and past South Africa's 234 for 9 with eight balls to spare. The tourists' victory leveled the five-game series at 2-2 ahead of a final match in Benoni on Sunday.
Pakistan rode a late scare when they lost Farhat and Wahab Riaz within four balls at the end, but Farhat and Misbah had ultimately done enough. Towering fast bowler Mohammad Irfan took two wickets with the first two balls of the match in a rampaging start for Pakistan, and South Africa failed to post enough runs despite half-centuries from AB de Villiers and David Miller, who shared a 115-run stand.
The 2.16-meter (7-foot-1) Irfan sent top-ranked ODI batsman Hashim Amla and Colin Ingram packing with the first two deliveries in his 3 for 46, and fellow left-arm seamer Junaid Khan and spinner Saeed Ajmal also had three wickets each at Kingsmead. "That was something. You dream of that stuff," skipper Misbah said of Irfan's explosive start. "That was a much-needed win for us."
Pakistan were in early trouble at 33 for 3 in their reply after opener Mohammad Hafeez was given out obstructing the field in a rare mode of dismissal and Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan also went.
Farhat hit eight fours and a six after being brought back into the team and Misbah collected seven fours and two sixes as the pair took Pakistan to 186 for 4 and less than 50 runs from victory before their partnership was broken. Shahid Afridi, Farhat and then Riaz were out in a mini-collapse before Shoaib Malik (19 not out) and Ajmal took Pakistan home.
"We lost momentum too often today," South Africa captain De Villiers said. "The boys fought right to the end but we came up short."
Irfan forced Amla to edge behind to wicketkeeper Akmal off the opening delivery and bowled Ingram with a swinging yorker next ball to give the tourists early dominance over an inconsistent South Africa, which is in danger of losing a second straight ODI series.
Graeme Smith went for 12 and Farhaan Behardien for 1 - both to the other left-arm quick, Khan - as South Africa slumped to 38 for 4. Skipper De Villiers and Miller, who was only playing in place of the injured Faf du Plessis, put the Proteas temporarily back on track with their century stand but progress was still slow.
De Villiers made his 75 off 108 balls with five fours. Miller's slightly more aggressive 67 came off 77 deliveries with seven fours.
The pair fell to Ajmal within 17 runs off each other, and Irfan ended Rory Kleinveldt's innings after the tailender started to get going with three fours as South Africa slipped from 153 for 4 to 221 for 9.