JOHANNESBURG: Babar Azam was a picture of beautifully measured batting violence but his team mates somehow contrived to lose a game that should have been easily won. They faltered to a seven-run defeat that only Pakistan can muster after David Miller’s late onslaught helped South Africa to post 188/3.
The Proteas’ designated ice-man Andile Phehlukwayo (3/36) not only defended 15 off the final over but took two wickets in two balls to kill off Pakistan’s series hopes. The manner in which Pakistan handled the back end of the chase was a disgrace to Babar’s magnificent 58-ball 90 that contained 13 four’s and one six.
Their last 10 overs only produced 80 runs as compared to the power-packed first 10 produced 101 runs. When he held court, he was the Floyd Mayweather that countered Miller’s Manny Pacquiao knock. Babar cared less about what his partners did and drilled boundary after boundary. There were nine of them when he crossed 50 in only 34 balls and batted with an ease that drove the errant South African bowling to distraction.
He caned everyone bar the economical debutant Lutho Sipamla, who put the brakes on Pakistan’s fast start. Every other bowler was put through the wringer as Pakistan raced to 63/1 five overs and 70/1 after the six-over power-play period. The pressure was slightly released when Pakistan were 101/1 after 10 overs but Hussain Talat (55), who batted well, inexplicably starved Babar of the strike and soaked up valuable balls.
Talat’s 50 came off 39 balls, but crucially, he was one of Chris Morris’s two wickets in the 19th over that set up the tantalising finish. Morris (2/36) also castled the dangerous Imad Wasim (six) with the last ball of the over. Shoaib Malik (six) hit Phehlukwayo for four in the first ball but picked out Rassie van der Dussen at square leg off the fourth ball with only two runs in between. Phehlukwayo then castled Hassan Ali to settle the outcome. Azam was denied a deserved ton when he holed out to Junior Dala at deep long-on off Beuran Hendricks (2/30) in the 17th over. Pakistan were 147/2 and still looked in good shape after the 102-run stand between Azam and Talat. However, Pakistan finished their innings in the way South Africa finished theirs. South Africa’s innings was of the two-stage type: Consolidation in the form of 61/1 after the first 10 overs and acceleration in the last 10.
The final 60 balls saw South Africa taking 127 runs with Miller (65*) clouting 29 off Usman Shinwari’s final over. Three sixes and two fours were launched into the packed vastness of the Bullring as Miller’s second T20 international 50 was drilled off just 25 balls with two fours and four sixes. Pakistan did well to tie the hosts down through frugal spells from Imad (1/9) and Shaheen Shah Afridi (1/27).
Imad in particular was outstanding in his four overs of brisk left-arm spin that also contained a seventh over maiden. Such was the excellence of Imad and Afridi, South Africa didn’t score a boundary in the first three overs. It was in Afridi’s second over, the fourth of the innings where the hosts relatively broke the shackles with two boundaries.
Debutant Janneman Malan had his issues against Imad, who eventually had him stumped in the ninth over but hit two very big sixes of Shinwari, who had a game to forget. Reeza Hendricks (28) also struggled to get the ball off the square and was smartly run out by Shadab Khan after Van der Dussen called for an ill-advised single. Van der Dussen’s 27-ball 45 injected life into the innings but when he picked out Imad at mid-on off Shaheen, South Africa were 126/3 at the start of the 17th over.
The 40-minute rain-break juiced up the surface and energised Miller, who made Heinrich Klaasen a mere spectator in the 28-ball, 62-run stand that Miller dominated. It proved to be a crucial knock in the bigger scheme of the game.