A couple of sixes by Hasan Ali in the penultimate over off Andile Phehlukwayo got Pakistan over the line in a run chase that did wobble a couple of times. The 2-1 series win is significant in more than one ways, for South Africa has never been beaten in a T20 series in the sub-continent before. Also, the home side has become the first country to register one hundred T20I wins.
The dew factor in Lahore at this time of the year and 6 pm local time start made Babar Azam put South Africa in to bat in the third and deciding game at the Gaddafi Stadium. Pakistan had taken the field with three changes: Asif Ali, Hasan Ali and newcomer Zahid Mahmood coming in for a do-or-die contest. One had a feeling the home side will need to rely on its natural aggression to be at its best.
South Africa didn’t get off to a rapid start on a pitch that offered grip for spinners from which Mohammad Nawaz benefited to claim two wickets. He tallied with 41-3 in six overs of powerplay with Hasan Ali, after being hit for three fours in a row, and clean bowling Pite van Bilijon with a slower off-cutter.
Wrist spinner Zahid in his very first over had Heinrich Klaasen caught and the very next ball trapped Janneman Malan leg before to leave South Africa tottering at 46-5. The absence of Shadab Khan created room for the 32-year from Dadu in Sindh.
In the last few weeks, the selection of Nauman Ali in Tests and now of Zahid in T20, should provide a great boost for Hyderabad Cricket Association, the side the two slow bowlers had represented in Pakistan domestic cricket.
It was all down to the big-hitting David Miller but he saw Usman Qadir become the fourth Pakistan bowler tonight to claim a wicket in their first over. South African batsmen had not shown enough skills against slow bowling and the sixth wicket was down with only 48 to their credit.
The Proteas have complete disaster and a number of soft dismissals to blame against the ball turning for both wrist spinners. The score after 10 overs was 61-6 and at this stage the super sopper and rope arrived to absorb much of the dew from the outfield.
Bowling four overs on a trot Zahid finished with 3-40, his figures dented by two huge sixes by Miller in his last over, one of the most in-demand T20 franchise player in the world. He was asked to carry his team once again after arriving in the seventh over and the opposition on top.
The left-handed flat batted a four off Faheem to take South Africa past the 100 mark in 14.2 overs, still looking for at least another 50 runs to make it competitive.
He needed 30 balls for his fifty as he worked hard to keep the strike until he was bowled by Faheem in the final over. By that time, he had clubbed four sixes and posted a competitive total of 164-8. His innings of 85 off 45 balls, featuring five fours and seven sixes, was a good example of one man stealing the show.
A question mark arose of Babar not using a slow bowler instead of Faheem, who conceded 25 runs in the final. The in-form Mohammad Rizwan had a new partner in Haider Ali and the two gave their side a perfect platform with 51-0 in the six overs of powerplay.
The stand was broken by Tabraiz Shamsi off his very first ball with a chinaman bowling over the wicket. An eye-catching delivery. He also trapped Rizwan leg before with 42 off 30 balls to his name, which was a key wicket.
Pakistan’s run-rate was fine and it was all about keeping faith in themselves. At the end of 10 overs, the score was 80-2 and requiring 85 off 60 balls didn’t call for panic at all. The fielding side needed to be cautious of their moves on a wet outfield.
Shamsi struck in his third over and Hussain Talat’s swipe will not go well with the team management. Pakistan’s hundred came in 13 overs with Babar finding the boundary more frequently than South Africa would have liked.
Having been hit for a boundary twice by the Pakistan captain on the off side, Shamsi cleaned him up with a nippy off cutter to stop him on 44 off 30 balls with five fours and a six.
Klaasen’s move to bring back Shamsi to bowl his last over earned him another wicket when big-hitting Asif Ali holed out to long off. It was a poor shot and Shamsi ended with 4-25 and it was a very special spell.
Pakistan now needed 47 off last 5 overs and it was all down to their all-rounders. After Faheem’s departure to an ill-advised lofted attempt, Nawaz with two fours and a six cut the target to 16 off the last two overs.
It was a high full-toss (no-ball) from Andile Phehlukwayo hit over square leg for a six by Hasan Ali that sunk South Africa. The comeback kid would repeat the stroke a few balls later to bring joy to the Pakistan camp.