JOHANNESBURG – Having conceded the series by losing the first two Twenty20 Internationals by slim margins, Pakistan will want to go all the way in Wednesday’s third and final match against South Africa at SuperSport Park, Centurion (start 6pm).
The two games so far have been evenly contested to a large extent, but South Africa have just been able to close out games better, earning themselves a series victory.
Pakistan will feel like the least they deserve is a consolation win, and in order to do that they must continue playing the way have and hold their nerve better in the death stages.
In the first match in Cape Town, they did well enough to get within six runs of South Africa’s 192. Then in Johannesburg, they seemed in complete control in their chase of 189 after Babar Azam’s 90 and Hussain Talat’s 55, but a flurry of wickets dented their momentum and they eventually lost out by seven runs.
Pakistan batsmen’s biggest nemesis has been Andile Phehlukwayo. Using crafty, deceptive slower balls mixed up with the occasional yorker, Phehlukwayo has managed to keep the explosive Pakistan batsmen at bay.
He masterfully defended 15 off the final over in the previous game, conceding just seven runs and taking a couple of wickets too.
Pakistan will need to find ways to counter that threat better. Another man they will be wary of is stand-in captain David Miller. His stunning performance in the field (four catches and two run-outs) earned him the Player of the Match in the first game. In Johannesburg, he came good with the bat, slamming an unbeaten 65 from just 29 deliveries to bolster South Africa’s score to 188/3.
Top-order batsmen like Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen have also been among the runs, and Pakistan will look to keep them at bay. Pakistan’s batsmen, Azam in particular, too have been in incredible form.
The stylish right-hander has scored 128 from the two games at a strike-rate of 150.58. Others like Talat and Shoaib Malik have also scored runs, but Pakistan will want more from the middle and lower-middle order.
The scores might suggest it’s been a batsman’s series, but the bowlers have had their say. Phehlukwayo has been exceptional, but Beuran Hendricks and Chris Morris have also been among the wickets. For Pakistan, left-arm spinner Imad Wasim has bowled very accurately, conceding just 32 runs from his eight overs at an economy rate of just four. Yet, Pakistan will want their quicks to make early inroads.
The match will draw curtains on Pakistan’s lengthy tour, and having lost the Test series and the ODI series prior to this, they will be desperate to finish off on a high to leave for home on a positive note.
David Miller, the stand-in South Africa captain has been exceptional, not only with the bat but also in the field – after all, it’s not too often one is awarded Player of the Match for his fielding exploits. Pakistan bore the brunt of his explosive hitting in the second game, and he will want to put on another masterclass in that department.
The Pakistan right-hander Babar Azam has been making this column frequently in recent times, but it can’t be helped when he’s in that kind of form. Through the Tests, ODIs and T20Is, he has been Pakistan’s most consistent batsman and he will want to close out the series with a flourish.
The pitch can be expected to be another batting-friendly surface, but like with most South African wickets, there should be something in it for the fast bowlers early on. Weather is expected to be ideal, and chances of rain are minimal.
The squads are:
South Africa – Gihahn Cloete, Junior Dala, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller (c), Chris Morris, Willem Mulder, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lutho Sipamla, Janneman Malan
Pakistan – Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Hussain Talat, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Sahibzada Farhan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik (c), Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Rizwan
African News Agency (ANA)