It was far from clinical, and the game was in the balance for large periods, but the Proteas secured a thrilling 6-run victory over Pakistan in their second World Cup clash in Mount Maunganui on Friday.
Chasing 224 for victory, Pakistan went into the final over needing 10 for the win, and it was Shabnim Ismail who was tasked with bowling it.
The South African speedster was cool under pressure and conceded just three in five balls that included a stunning catch off her own bowling.
Pakistan were all out for 217, falling just short.
South Africa have now won their opening two matches at the tournament, but their schedule gets significantly more difficult from here with fixtures against England, New Zealand, Australia, West Indies and India to come.
As was the case in their tournament opener against Bangladesh, the victory was comfortable enough in the end, but the Proteas will know that they need to be significantly improved in all departments if they are going to mount a serious challenge in New Zealand.
Pakistan won the toss and opted to bowl first as the Proteas welcomed back star opener Lizelle Lee, who came in for Laura Goodall with Tazmin Brits shifting down to No 3.
Lee failed on her return, and was out for just 2 (7) and when Brits fell in the eighth over for 2 (18), South Africa were in real trouble at 21/2.
Laura Wolvaardt (75 off 91) and skipper Sune Luus (62 off 102) then combined for what was essentially a match-winning partnership, putting on an 89-run stand for the third wicket that got South Africa going.
A flurry of wickets in the middle-order then reduced the Proteas to 120/5, but important knocks from Chloe Tryon (31 off 38) and wicketkeeper Trisha Chetty (31 off 26) saw them post a modest yet competitive 223/9.
The Pakistan run chase was tense throughout, with neither side able to get firmly ahead in the contest after Shabnim Ismail (3/41 in 9.5) struck with successive deliveries as Pakistan were 26/2.
Opener Nahida Khan (40 off 71) and No 4 Omaima Sohail (65 off 104) then laid the foundation, and while the Proteas bowlers were economical, they struggled to pick up wickets in quick succession after Ismail’s initial burst.
As the innings progressed, however, the pressure shifted onto the chasing side and Pakistan were left needing 56 off 42 with four wickets in hand, and then 38 off 24, to secure their first victory of the competition.
The task was too big, and while the Proteas got home in the end, they missed numerous runout chances along the way.
They next play hosts New Zealand in Hamilton on Thursday.
Scores in brief:
SA 223/9 (Wolvaardt 75, Luus 61, Sana 3/43, Fatima 3/52)
Pakistan 217 all out (Sohail 65, Dar 55, Ismail 3/41, Kapp 2/43, Khaka 2/43)
SA won by 6 runs