The Wanderers in Johannesburg are considered to be a batsman's paradise. The venue for the recently concluded second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan is the one where the highest successful chase in ODI cricket and the highest team score in a 50-over World Cup final have been recorded.
The ground was also the first to see an ODI score in the 400s (scored twice on the same day) and three batsmen scoring centuries in the same ODI innings. It also once held the record for the highest successful chase in a T20 International.
That said, with the way the ball swung around in the middle-overs of Pakistan's innings on Sunday, the pitch looked no less spicy than that at Cape Town or Lord's. By the time Pakistan lost the wicket of Shadab Khan, they were already out of the competition. After all, it's not easy scoring 222 runs off 25.3 overs with just five wickets left.
But Fakhar Zaman, the opening batsman who had stuck in, thought otherwise. He started attacking the moment number-8 Faheem Ashraf arrived. He kept the required run rate in check and never let it get to 16 or above until the final three overs of the match. His positivity and sense of the game was amazing. And although he ended up on the losing side, Pakistan lost by just 17 runs instead of what would have been around 150 without his effort.
Fakhar scored nearly 60% of Pakistan's total. The second-highest scorer of the innings was skipper Babar Azam with 31, followed by 25 extras. One can say that Fakhar didn't have an option as he was running out of partners. But there are a lot of batsmen who would have just carried the bat, rather than playing attacking shots, when all the allowed fielders were fencing the boundary.
For a team ridden by politics, bad form and inexperience, attacking cricket might be the only way out. England's turnaround since their 2015 World Cup group-stage exit is a great example. Following that shocking World Cup campaign, England, a team not particularly known for an aggressive brand of cricket, chose to adopt that very template in their next big series - at home against New Zealand.
A team that would rarely score above 300 was now regularly posting scores in excess of 350 or even 400. In the four years that followed, opposition teams knew that a first-innings total of 350-plus was not safe with England batting second. Fearlessness had become the key element of the team's batting. The likes of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan were no less lethal than what Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds were back in the day.
A similar approach might be the need of the hour for Pakistan cricket. Playing ordinary cricket amid a shuffling team and tough overseas conditions isn't helping Pakistan. They certainly need more specialists and they need to bat around their captain Babar Azam. Pakistan doesn't need to copy their T20 template onto ODI cricket, the way West Indies did and failed miserably at it.
If Zaman's 193 was not motivating enough, they can look back at the second half of their run during the 2019 World Cup. Four consecutive wins against South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, combined with their earlier victory against England, showed the world what the team was capable of.
The management needs to back their key players and focus on a limited pool for the next two and a half years. With the next World Cup being played on the subcontinent, Pakistan's rise could make the tournament more exciting. It remains to be seen which team gets back to its competitive best from a decade ago - Pakistan, Sri Lanka or South Africa.