CENTURIAN: Pakistan have become the second team after Australia to win two bilateral ODI series in South Africa after successfully defending 321 in the decider in the third ODI at SuperSport Park. They earned 20 points in the World Cup Super League and move to the top of the table, level with England and Australia.
In a match that tested both teams’ depth with 11 changes across the two teams – South Africa made seven and Pakistan four – one player’s touch remained exactly the same. Fakhar Zaman scored his second successive hundred, and on the way, became the first Pakistan batsman to score more than one ODI century in South Africa and score the most runs by a batsman in a three-match series against South Africa to set up the victory.
Between him and Babar Azam, who notched up 94, they asked their hosts to pull off the highest successful chase at this ground, as Kyle Verreynne and Andile Phehlukwayo almost pulled off a coup. Their 99-ball 108-run sixth-wicket partnership steadied South Africa from 141 for 5 and put them 73 runs away from a win. But in the end, the tail was left with too much to do after most of the rest of the top six were undone by spin, with Mohammad Nawaz and Usman Qadir taking four wickets between them.
While South Africa will once again have cause to examine their approach against the turning ball, they also missed their frontline attack, all of whom have departed for the IPL. With Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi absent, Daryn Dupvaillon, Lutho Sipamla and Beuran Hendricks bowled 18 overs for 118 runs without taking a single wicket. Instead, it was Keshav Maharaj, brought in for Tabraiz Shamsi, who enjoyed the most success, supported by allrounder Jon-Jon Smuts and part-time offspinner Aiden Markram. In total, South Africa bowled 28 overs of spin – the most in a home ODI – and they collectively picked up six wickets.
In a left-field move, Markram opened both the bowling and the batting, which made him only the second South African after Robin Peterson to start in both disciplines in the last two decades. He will be happier with his performance with the ball than the bat though, after he took 2 for 48 in ten overs but was out for 18, inside-edging onto his pad before being caught behind.
Markram and South Africa began well with the ball and Pakistan only got one boundary away in the first six overs, but that was the calm before the storm. When Zaman hit the first six of the innings – off a Sipamla short ball that he muscled over midwicket – the openers seemed to find rhythm. Imam-ul-Haq, meanwhile, took on Dupavillon’s short ball with his trademark pull and brought up his half-century off 60 balls.
Their century stand came up in the 19th over and made the first Pakistan opening pair to record five century stands in ODIs, but were separated just as an acceleration appeared on the cards. Imam went down the track to try and hit Maharaj over long-on but did not time his stroke and was caught by Verreynne.
Enter Azam, who signalled his intent with a gorgeous back-foot drive through point off the eighth ball he faced. Zaman continued as the anchor, cashing in where line and length allowed such as in a Sipamla over, where the young quick sprayed it on both sides of the wicket and Zaman plucked three boundaries. His hundred came with a short-arm jab to midwicket and with more than 15 overs left, he had enough time to finish what he had started in the second ODI at the Wanderers, where he was run-out for 193 but Maharaj prevented that.
He had Zaman given out lbw when the batsman missed a slog sweep and was hit on the back pad but Zaman reviewed. Ball tracking showed it was missing leg. Off the next ball, Zaman tried to paddle Maharaj away but got an inside edge on to his pads to instead give Heinrich Klaasen a simple catch.
That dismissal sparked a mini-collapse that saw Pakistan lose 5 for 51 in 64 balls. Maharaj, Smuts and Markram were responsible for the squeeze and could have kept Pakistan to under 300 before Azam and Hasan Ali came together for a final flourish. They took 56 runs off the last three overs, with Azam finishing one shot away from a century.
With South Africa needing to score at close to 6.50 runs an over from the get-go, they needed a good start. Markram and Janneman Malan, both powerful hitters, laid the groundwork with boundaries on both sides of the field including Markram’s classic cover drive and Malan’s front-foot pull off Shaheen Afridi. Their partnership was worth 54 when Markram was dismissed in the ninth over.
With Jon-Jon Smuts, a new – and as yet untested – batsman at the crease, Azam waited for the powerplay to end before introducing Qadir. Smuts showed some aggression with a strong sweep through square leg but never looked entirely comfortable as Qadir bowled him with a flipper.
Soon there was spin from both ends, with Nawaz into the attack but captain Temba Bavuma and Malan negotiated them fairly well. Bavuma relied on his sweep and Malan waited for width, bringing up fifty with a cover drive off 63 balls. The pair still maintained a degree of caution, especially with Bavuma battling a hamstring niggle.
Their partnership grew to fifty before Nawaz removed them both in his fourth over to expose South Africa’s middle order. He had Malan trapped lbw when he played down the wrong line to a delivery that straightened and three balls later bowled Bavuma, who played all around a straight one. Four overs after that, Nawaz got Klaasen, who missed an attempted mow and was hit on the back pad. He reviewed the lbw but ball tracking showed the ball would have hit the stumps.
At the end of the 28th over, South Africa were 141 for 5, without the injured Rassie van der Dussen or the IPL-bound David Miller, leaving it to Verreynne and Phehlukwayo to score at above eight runs an over. Verreynne’s first boundary came off Faheem Ashraf – a top-edge over the wicketkeeper – before he unleashed the pull and the back-foot punch. Phehlukwayo took on spin and hit Nawaz over cover and Qadir over deep square leg for six, with both hitting anything wide from Rauf.
Verreynne brought up fifty in the 40th over – off 40 balls – while Phehlukwayo reached the milestone in the 42nd off 56 balls. South Africa then needed 76 runs off the last ten overs but had to contend with Rauf’s changes of pace. He snuck in slower balls at opportune moments and got Verreynne to drag on to deep-square leg, attempting to clear the rope.
Six balls later, Phehlukwayo went in similar fashion when he swung at a Hasan slower ball and skied it. Sarfaraz made good distance, and called for and claimed the catch to end South Africa’s hopes of winning a third trophy in nine series under Mark Boucher. Pakistan, though, have now won series in South Africa with Misbah-ul-Haq as captain (2013) and coach (2021).