Pakistan has become the first Asian team to clinch two bilateral series in South Africa as they defeated the hosts by 28 runs in the third and final One-Day International (ODI) at Centurion.
Their victory was built on Fakhar Zaman’s brilliant century, his second in as many matches, captain Babar Azam’s 94, Hasan Ali’s sparkling 32 not out, and Mohammad Nawaz’s and Shaheen Shah Afridi’s three-fers.
Fakhar stretched his excellent run of form from Johannesburg to Centurion as the left-handed batsman smashed 104-ball 101, embellished with nine fours and three sixes that set the platform for Pakistan to post 320 for seven. Babar was named player of the match award, while Fakhar was awarded player of the series.
Babar provided the tourists with a perfect start to the innings after being asked to bat by Temba Bavuma with a 112-run partnership with Imam-ul-Haq, who scored a breezy 57 off 73, and 94-run stand for the second wicket with Babar, whose exquisite strokeplay saw him strike seven fours and three sixes off 82 balls.
South Africa looked in all sorts of troubles against the Pakistan openers as the two left-handed batsmen stroked the ball around the dial and rotate the strike at will. It was not until the 22nd over when Imam stepped down the wicket in search of a maximum that South Africa got their first breakthrough and handed an easy catch to the long-on fielder.
Fakhar’s dismissal in the 36th over which sparked a collapse as Pakistan slipped from 206 for one to 257 for six in 10.4 overs. Pakistan, who had by then looked certain to post an imposing total, found themselves struggling to cross 300-run mark.
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Then came Hasan Ali, whose last outing in the format was in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019. He plundered Jon-Jon Smuts for four sixes in the penultimate over before Babar hit Andile Phehlukwayo for two sixes and a four in the last as Pakistan brought up 43 runs in the last two overs.
Hasan’s posted a scorching 32 not out from mere 11 balls. His knock also included a four.
In a rare instance, South Africa’s spinners delivered as many as 28 overs with Maharaj outshining his teammates with three for 45. Aiden Markram took two wickets for 48.
Janneman Malan and Aiden Markram provided South Africa a quick start with a 54-run partnership in nine overs. Shaheen Shah Afridi dismissed Markram with a length delivery which took the inside edge on its way to Sarfaraz Ahmed’s gloves.
Debutant Usman Qadir dismissed Smuts before Mohammad Nawaz’s left-arm orthodox accounted for Malan, Bavuma and Heinrich Klaasen as the hosts found themselves tottering at 140 for five.
Fifties from Kyle Verreynne and Phehlukwayo brought South Africa back into the contest as they put a 108-run stand for the sixth wicket before Haris Rauf sent the former back to the pavilion in the 44th over. Phehlukwayo became Hasan’s first wicket in the next over and Haris struck again in his next.
South Africa lost their final wicket on the third ball of the final over on a scorching Shaheen’s yorker.
Experts, colleagues, former cricketers and other notable people congratulated the team for a historic win.
Man of the Match for the second time in the series, Babar dedicated this series to Pakistan, saying: “Alhumdulillah, this series win is for you Pakistan.”
“Extremely proud of this champion team. Special shout out to Fakhar Zaman [and] his remarkable innings,” added Babar. “Well played South Africa.”
Meanwhile, Man of the Series Zaman, while talking about his victory, said: “Absolutely honoured to be the part of this amazing team. Top efforts by everyone.”
Pakistan will now face Proteas in four T20Is before moving to Zimbabwe, where they are scheduled to play two Test matches and three T20Is.