Pakistan beat a brave young South African team by 28 runs to clinch the Betway ODI series 2-1 at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.
After compiling a challenging 320 for seven in their innings after being put in to bat by the Proteas, Pakistan bowled out South Africa for 292 in 49.3 overs.
Opener Fakhar Zaman, who struck consecutive centuries in Johannesburg and Centurion, was named man of the series while skipper Babar Azam, who compiled 94, was named man of the match.
It was another absorbing game in a series that has gone down to the final over in each of the three matches.
It was Pakistan’s first ODI series triumph in South Africa since 2013/14.
The Proteas will not want to offer excuses, but the loss of five of their top players to the IPL – comprising a total of 371 ODI caps – was a major hurdle for them.
“No excuses, we knew that was going to happen some time before and we planned for it,” confirmed coach Mark Boucher afterwards. Obviously I’m very disappointed that we lost the series, particularly playing at home, but Pakistan were the better team throughout and they deserved the win.
“We lost today’s match at various key moments, particularly at the end of their innings. Winning is a habit, and we just need to start winning cricket matches again. We do take some positives out of it with Maharaj’s bowling and the batting of Janneman Malan and Kyle Verreynne. But right now we all feel disappointed.”
THRILLING SIXTH-WICKET PARTNERSHIP
South Africa’s reply was driven by Malan (70) up front who timed the ball impeccably in his 81-ball innings that included nine fours.
But he became left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz’s first victim in one of the key periods of the match, the 24th over, when he trapped Malan leg before. Three balls later, he bowled a hobbling Temba Bavuma (20) who had suffered a hamstring strain.
Malan had earlier shared an opening partnership of 54 with Aiden Markram (18) but after he went South Africa’s hopes rose again through a thrilling sixth-wicket partnership of 108 in 100 balls by Verreynne (62) and Andile Phehlukwayo (54).
Despite the run-rate rising, the two men gave the home side some hope of victory when they reached the 44th over with 73 still needed to win.
The challenge faded, however, when Verreynne was dismissed, caught on the boundary off a slower ball from paceman Haris Rauf. The young Capetonian struck three fours and three sixes in his 53-ball innings.
Phehlukwayo was then caught by wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed who sprinted to midwicket to take the catch and the game was effectively over despite some late aggressive resistance from Keshav Maharaj (19 off 11) and Daryn Dupavillon (17 off 10).
For Pakistan, paceman Shaheen Afridi (3-54) and Nawaz (3-34) were the most successful bowlers.
EXPLOSIVE HITTING AT THE DEATH
Earlier, Zaman struck his second successive hundred and Babar Azam 94 in Pakistan’s innings.
For much of the innings it seemed that the visitors would comfortably pass the 300 mark, particularly after Zaman, fresh from his 193 in 155 balls in Johannesburg, put on 112 for the first wicket with Imam-ul-Haq (57) and a further 94 for the second wicket with Azam.
But when Zaman fell, caught by wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen for 101 (101 balls, nine fours, three sixes), the innings went into a tailspin in the face of some superb bowling from the South African spin attack led by Maharaj, who bowled beautifully for his 3-45 in 10 overs, and it took some explosive hitting at the death by Azam and Hassan Ali to take the innings into 300-plus territory.
The two men thrashed 56 off the last three overs with Ali slamming four sixes off Jon-Jon Smuts’s penultimate over while Phehlukwayo went for 18 off his final over with Azam just failing to reach what would have been his second hundred of the series when he fell to a catch by Markram at deep cover for 94 in 82 balls, including seven fours and three sixes.
Ali, who remained unbeaten, smashed four sixes and a four in his 32 off just 11 balls.
The fizzing climax to the innings was needed, from Pakistan’s point of view, after they had slumped from 214 for two in the 38th over to 257 for six with only four overs to go.
Maharaj’s most prominent spin twin was Markram who showed that his off-spin is much better than his part-time status with excellent figures of 2-48 off 10, the first time he has bowled a full quota of overs for his country.
SOUTH AFRICA: Aiden Markram, Janneman Malan, Temba Bavuma (capt), Jon-Jon Smuts, Kyle Verreynne, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Beuran Hendricks, Daryn Dupavillon, Lutho Sipamla
PAKISTAN: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed, Mohammed Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Uman Qadir, Haris Rauf