Running South Africa close was proof positive Pakistan are no longer the pushovers of elite women’s cricket.
So said skipper Sana Mir in the wake of her side scaring the World Cup’s dark horses to death in their opening encounter at Grace Road.
Thrashed by the Proteas the last time the two sides clashed in Sri Lanka, Pakistan looked set for another caning with South Africa 124-1 chasing just 207 for victory.
Mir’s side however refused to go quietly, superb pressure bowling backed by tiger-like fielding inducing a collapse which took them to the brink of victory before they finally succumbed by just three wickets in the last over.
Not surprisingly, spinner Mir was caught between sadness at not getting over the line, yet pride at the newly discovered mental fibre which means while still rank outsiders, her charges can no longer be viewed as cannon fodder for the rest.
“I think I’m still feeling a bit sad, but happy with how the girls have progressed,” she said.
“South Africa beat us very convincingly in Sri Lanka in our home conditions, so to come to England where they have four seamers for these conditions and take it to the last over was really good.
“The number one thing we have improved is the fighting spirit.
“I think last time when we came to England there were one-sided matches with the big teams and we definitely wanted to change that. Something we don’t want when we go out on the ground is a one-sided match. We definitely want to put up a fight.
“We have our limitations but the one thing has to be we don’t give up until the last ball.”
Mir was though critical of what she viewed as a below par batting display, which ultimately left them just too few to defend.
Nahida Khan batted deep into the Pakistan innings to make a career-best ODI score of 79, but the rest of the top order found ways to get out on a benign batting surface offering little to South Africa’s much vaunted seam attack.
Mir challenged her front five or six to take a leaf out of Nahida’s book, claiming her side need more than cameos if they are to make the next step in their progression.
“I’m definitely a little bit disappointed with how we batted,” she said.
“Only Nahida was able to make 50 on what was not a very difficult track.
“South Africa has a good bowling unit who put us under pressure, but other batters went to like 17, 22 or 13 runs.
“More of these scores need to be turned into 50s at this level in the World Cup.”
An England side chastened by opening day defeat to India will be the next test of Pakistan’s progress and fighting spirit.
Asked if she feared a backlash from the hosts, Mir produced fighting talk.
“If they [produce] a reaction we have a reaction too as we have also lost,” she added.
“We are going to go in with same fighting spirit.
“Having played here [at Grace Road] already is an advantage, but we know England is a very professional side and they are going to come hard at us.
“We are ready for that and we also want the next two points whether it is England or whatever team we play.”