Pakistan clinch final-ball victory after Babar ton

Centurion (Agencies): Babar Azam saw Rassie van der Dussen’s first international hundred and raised him a century of his own before Anrich Nortje recorded a career-best 4 for 51, Mohammad Rizwan scored 40 off 52 balls in a partnership of 53 for the sixth-wicket with Shadab Khan, van der Dussen dropped Khan in the penultimate over, Lungi Ngidi bowled him off a waist-high full toss that was called a no-ball, the resultant free hit went for four, Pakistan needed three runs off the last four balls when Faheem Ashraf was hit on the helmet and required a concussion test, scores were level with one delivery to go and Pakistan won the opening ODI.

Welcome to international captaincy Temba Bavuma.With high drama lacing through Bavuma’s first match in charge, he made some good decisions at the end of a tense chase and tasked Andile Phehlukwayo and Ngidi with bowling the death overs. They had 19 runs to defend off the final three and very nearly pulled off a memorable win. Instead, it was Ashraf who turned hero as he laced a wide one through point to seal victory off the last ball.

Things never looked like they would get that tense when Azam was at the crease in complete control of what seemed a straightforward chase. On a slower-than-usual SuperSport Park pitch, where almost every other batsman struggled to score fluently, Azam played a silken knock. He scored runs all around the wicket to bring up his 13th century and first against South Africa, at a run-a-ball. His 177-run second-wicket stand with Imam-ul-Haq broke the back of a target and Pakistan were cruising until Nortje’s second spell.

Azam edged him to Quinton de Kock the ball after he reached his hundred to spark a mini-collapse. Pakistan were 186 for 2 at the the 32nd over and needed 88 runs off 18 overs. But then, ul-Haq miscued a pull to mid-on in Nortje’s next over, Danish Aziz edged a short ball behind in the over after that and Asif Ali slogged Nortje to midwicket in the following over. Pakistan were 203 for 5 after 38 overs and needed 71 runs off 12 overs. Still doable, if Rizwan ushered them home.

He scored two boundaries off Nortje’s final over, then Shadab pulled and hooked Rabada and the pair seemed set to finish things off. But in the 48th over, Rizwan holed out to deep mid-wicket off a Phehlukwayo slower ball and things got complicated.

Pakistan needed 14 off the last 12 balls and Ngidi bowled two dots before Ashraf took a single. Shadab swung wildly off at the fourth ball of the over to send a swirling chance to deep mid-wicket and van der Dussen made good ground to get under it but couldn’t.

Off the next Shadab got an outside-edge as he backed away from a full toss to attempt a big shot and chopped on but he signalled that the delivery was high and replays confirmed a no-ball. Ngidi had to deliver that again and went full so Shadab bisected cover and mid-off to get four. The over ended with an outside edge that went through de Kock and the batsmen ran three to leave them needing just three more off the last over.

Phehlukwayo had Shadab, for real, caught off the first ball by van der Dussen, then bowled a dot ball and then hit Ashraf with a bouncer as he missed the pull. Another dot followed before Ashraf chipped a slower ball over Phehlukwayo for two to level scores. A conference preceded the last ball, with the prospect of a super over looming, but Phehlukwayo offered too much width.