Another thriller as Pakistan beat South Africa off the final ball

By Kersi Meher-Homji

Another late night (rather early morning till 3.30 am) in front of the TV and another reward by watching a cliff-hanger.

It was the first of the three one-day international (ODI) series between South Africa and Pakistan at Centurion, S Africa, and the match was decided off the last ball of the match.

Sent in to bat South Africa totaled 6 for 273 in 50 overs. Top scorer was Rassie van der Dussen who scored an unbeaten 123 with 10 fours and two sixes, adding 116 runs for the fifth wicket with David Miller (50 runs). It was Dussen’s first ODI century.

Set a challenging 274 runs to win, Pakistan was on top at 1 for 186, opener Imam-ul-Haq (70) and skipper Babar Azam (103) adding 177 entertaining runs for the second wicket. Babar’s cover drives reminded me of Rahul Dravid’s.

Just as a Pakistan victory appeared certain, fast bowler Anrich Nortje (4 for 51) got in the act. After Babar was dismissed Pakistan lost four wickets for 17 runs and now South Africa looked winners.

I just could not understand the attitude of the later Pak batsmen. They needed just five runs an over; a single here, a two there with clever placements and victory was theirs. But they went for tall hits as if sixes were needed and were caught in the deep.

With defeat staring at them, Mohammad Rizwan (40 runs) and Shadab Khan (33) batted sensibly and took them near an exciting win. When Rizwan fell, his country needed 18 runs off 14 balls. More tension was afoot when Shadab was caught in the final over, Pak needing 3 runs off five balls.

Victory was achieved off the final ball, the brilliant Babar Azam adjudged Man of the Match. It was Pakistan’s highest successful run chase against South Africa in South Africa in ODIs.

Now Pakistan is leading the ODI series 1-0 with two more matches to play on Sunday and next Wednesday.

Did you notice?

At one stage Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam were unbeaten on 66 and 99. It looked like inverted commas     “    ” to me!

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