Blazing half-centuries from Markram and Klaasen, and a fine spell from Shamsi, went in vain
Pakistan 189 for 6 (Rizwan 74*, Ashraf 30, Hendricks 3-32, Shamsi 2-29) beat South Africa 188 for 6 (Markram 51, Klaasen 50, van Biljon 34, Nawaz 2-21, Hasan 2-28) by four wickets
Pakistan achieved their highest-ever T20I run-chase to take a 1-0 lead against South Africa, sneaking home with a ball to spare. Mohammad Rizwan, whose purple patch shows no signs of receding, was the star man once more, staying unbeaten through the chase and scoring 74 off 50. Little of it looked likely, though, with South Africa well ahead in the game for much of the final stages, but a combination of poor bowling and fielding and brave hitting from Faheem Ashraf and Hasan Ali saw the win snatched away from the home side at the death. That a heavily depleted South Africa got so close might satisfy Mark Boucher when they reflect upon this game, but for now, this will be a cruel defeat to bear.South Africa had opted to bat first after winning the toss, flying in the face of history; only twice in six previous games had the side making that decision ended up winning the game. It seemed to be paying off for much of the first innings, with most of the top order stepping up in the absence of the senior players in a big way. Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen set South Africa the perfect platform, storming to 159 for 3 in 16 overs, before wickets from Pakistan pulled them back at the death.South Africa didn’t allow Pakistan to get off to a flyer in the Powerplay, but a 20-run over from debutant Sisanda Magala got them going. While Babar Azam fell soon after, Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman were in full flow. Zaman smashed three consecutive boundaries off George Linde to keep the asking rate in check, but when Tabraiz Shamsi removed him, things began to get tight.
Wickets continued to fall and Pakistan looked to have lost their way, but the inexperience of the South African side told in the end. A number of the errors they made were unforced, and Pakistan, smelling blood, capitalised. The final run scored was an overthrow, perhaps a fitting exclamation mark to a sloppy finish by the hosts without which, despite the odds against them, they could have taken the series lead.
Pakistan’s bowling woes
Pakistan’s T20I bowling is by far their strongest suit. But little of that was in evidence today as they turned in a strikingly disappointing performance, one that might have led to an uglier scorecard if Mohammad Nawaz hadn’t stood head and shoulders above the rest of his colleagues. Shaheen Afridi struggled to deal with Janneman Malan’s belligerence, with the South African apparently set on targeting Pakistan’s best bowler, and achieving great success in that endeavour. Usman Qadir, true to legend, bowled worse than he arguably ever has in a Pakistan shirt after having shaved off his flowing locks, while full-tosses and slot deliveries from the quicker bowlers abounded, and were consistently punished.
Jeinrich Klaasen and Pite van Biljon put on a solid stand for the fourth wicket AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan managed to turn this around for most of the final five overs after Klaasen was dismissed, with the number of absences in South Africa’s middle order meaning power-hitting was in short supply by that stage. The lines were more accurate, and the men at the other end less capable, allowing Pakistan to rein South Africa in below 200.
While most of South Africa’s best players are at the IPL, they will be very glad to retain the services of the current number-one T20I bowler. Shamsi’s spell was perhaps the only time through the chase the hosts were confident they had a master of his craft at work. It was a bewitching period of play, with Shamsi danging one up on a wider line to tempt Fakhar Zaman out, while using the googly to devastating effect. The batsmen always seemed to be kept guessing, and on his watch, the asking rate crept above 12. Mohammad Hafeez’s dismissal was a particular highlight, with the batsman hopelessly unaware of the impending danger as he danced down the tracking without bothering to get to the pitch. The ball spun away, leaving Klaasen with a simple stumping, and Shamsi unfurled that iconic shoe-phone celebration.
When Beuran Hendricks removed Haider Ali and Mohammad Nawaz off successive balls to start the 16th over, the game looked like it had swung decisively. Rizwan and Ashraf allowed Pakistan to hang on for about ten minutes, sneaking in the odd boundary as they took the contest deep. Ironically, though, it was Hendricks’ following over that burst the game back open for Pakistan, with Rizwan taking 14 off his first 3 balls to put Pakistan back in control. With 11 required in the final over, South Africa’s nerves would get the better of then, with Faheem dropped off the first ball, while the youthful Lizaad Williams missed his lines, allowing Hasan Ali to get six off his first two balls. Needing three off two, Pakistan squeezed in another two, before Williams fumbled a throw from the deep, and Rizwan and Hasan scampered another run to wrap up an unlikely win.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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