Sports

Fakhar Zaman, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali hand Pakistan T20I series

Written by The Frontier Post

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Centurion: Pakistan have pulled off back-to-back T20I series wins over South Africa, albeit not a team with their first-choice personnel at their disposal, and capped off their tour with a 3-1 win thanks to a strong bowling performance and despite a batting wobble. Pakistan made heavy work of chasing 145, and after coasting on 92 for 1 lost 6 for 37 to put South Africa on the brink of a series-levelling coup.

That might have been more than what South Africa deserved after an under-par batting effort. Only three times in the 77 T20Is in which South Africa have batted first, have they been bowled out for fewer runs as the middle-order collapsed. Shaheen Shah Afridi had his best performance of the series, with a return of 1 for 19 in his four overs, after conceding at more than ten for the first three matches while Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf took three apiece to stall any acceleration attempts.

After Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman put Pakistan on track for a comfortable win, Lizaad Williams removed them both and Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo squeezed Pakistan but South Africa could not hold their nerve at the end. It’s an age-old problem which they will want to confront as they slumped to a fifth successive series T20I defeat.
Safe hands, finally
Neither team had a fielding effort worthy of this series’ highlights reels with four dropped catches on each side but Pakistan pulled off a flawless display in this match and took all eight chances they got in this match.

It started when Fakhar Zaman intercepted Janneman Malan’s aerial drive at head height to take the catch to his right and put the brakes on a South African innings that was ticking along at eight an over.

That was the most difficult of the opportunities Pakistan got with the others fairly straightforward skied chances, though they still took some judgement. Zaman took another good catch at sweeper cover, and avoided a collision with Ashraf to end Sisanda Magala’s knock and Mohammad Rizwan dived full-length to his left to hold on to an Andile Phehlukwayo outside edge.

South Africa didn’t do too badly either and held on to six chances. Their best effort was Shamsi’s running catch at deep third to get rid of Azam and put South Africa in a position to push for a win.

Middle-over blues

South Africa went into this match a batter short after opting to bench Pite van Biljon in favour of a third allrounder and it backfired badly. After the openers were dismissed, they needed at least one of Klaasen or van der Dussen to bat through to avoid exposing a soft middle, but exactly the opposite happened.

Klaasen and van der Dussen were dismissed in the space of five balls, failing to make proper contact on attempted big strokes, which sparked a collapse of 5 for 13 in 20 balls. Linde and Mulder both looked as though they were batting a position too high and Phehlukwayo’s death-hitting amounted to one attempted to drive on the up. After scoring 100 runs in the first 12 overs, South Africa managed just 44 runs in their last 8, to finish well under-par.

Rizwan’s run ends

After Mohammad Rizwan stalked them all summer, South Africa would have been thrilled to see the back of him for a second duck in the series. Given his form, you can hardly blame Rizwan for stepping out of his crease to take on Bjorn Fortuin in the first over, but he overbalanced and missed his flick, allowing Heinrich Klaasen to pull off a stumping down the leg side. The last time South Africa dismissed Rizwan early, they cantered to victory but, with a low total to defend, they could not repeat that feat.

Batting beyond Babar

Pakistan’s middle order have been largely untested on this tour and proved more fragile than they would like. After Zaman and Azam were dismissed in the same over by Williams, Pakistan had to rely on their most experienced batter Mohammad Hafeez and promising youngster Haidar Ali to take them through the second half of the innings. Haidar flicked a full Phehlukwayo delivery to deep square leg and Hafeez slog-swept Shamsi to long-on, to leave it up to the lower-order.

Then Asif Ali was hurried by a Magala bouncer and popped him a simple return chance. Pakistan lost 4 for 17 in 37 balls which made what should have been a straightforward chase much more complicated. They needed 25 runs off the final 18 balls and six off the last over and got there with a ball to spare.

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