Sharjah, United Arab Emirates: Pakistan spinners Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi rattled South Africa to be all out for 183 in the first one-day international on Wednesday.
It could have been a lot worse for South Africa, which was 129-8 in the 35th over. But No. 8 batsman Wayne Parnell's maiden half century helped to give his bowlers a chance to defend the underwhelming total.
Parnell hit 56 off 70 balls with six fours and a six and his 52-run, ninth-wicket stand with Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 16 not out, was the only silver lining for South Africa after captain AB de Villiers won the toss.
Ajmal (4-30) dismantled the top order with the wickets of Graeme Smith (20), Faf du Plessis (12) and de Villiers (4) as the Proteas struggled to read the offspinner on the slow, turning pitch at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
South Africa badly missed opening batsman Hashim Amla, who is back home with his pregnant wife. Amla's replacement, Colin Ingram, was caught behind off lanky fast bowler Mohammad Irfan's steep second delivery of the match and JP Duminy (20) looked good briefly until mistiming a pull of Sohail Tanvir's short delivery.
Smith escaped a confident caught behind appeal off Ajmal but three balls later he was smartly stumped by Umar Akmal.
Du Plessis, who was fined 50 percent of his match fee for ball tampering during South Africa's thumping series-leveling victory in the second test last week, also struggled against Ajmal and was trapped leg before wicket.
The Proteas slipped to 63-5 when de Villiers misread Ajmal's doosra and was brilliantly caught one-handed off the second attempt over his head off his own bowling.
Legspinner Afridi (3-37) then choked the lower order by having David Miller (37) and Ryan McLaren caught off his own bowling before Parnell and Tsotsobe fought back with a gritty 84-ball stand.
Ajmal earned his 150th wicket in ODIs when Parnell stood in his crease and tried to clear the long on fence in the 49th over only to see Ahmed Shahzad taking a well-judged catch.