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Cricket news - Pakistan choke to concede series

Babar Azam's 90 went in vain

50 runs needed off the final five overs with nine wickets in hand. More often than not, one would back the batting side to get the job done. But with Pakistan, nothing can be taken for granted. Chasing 189, they were cruising in the first 10 overs scoring at more than 10 an over. At the 15-over mark, victory was well within their reach but South Africa employed an excellent slower-ball strategy - something they had executed well in the previous game as well - to pull themselves back into contention and eventually win the contest to seal the series at the Wanderers on Sunday (February 2).

Babar Azam was on fire during the powerplay, hitting six fours in the first two overs. In the same period, South Africa had made just five runs. The most impressive part about Babar's innings was his ability to play proper cricketing shots and yet score at a very healthy strike rate. Beuran Hendricks gave his side some respite in the final ball of the fourth over by getting rid of Fakhar Zaman with a short ball but Babar responded with a hat-trick of boundaries in the very next over to ensure the hosts do not get any sort of momentum on their side. By the end of the powerplay, Pakistan had knocked off 70 runs already.

The boundaries had dried up in the following three overs but Babar once again put his side back on track with a hat-trick of boundaries for the second time in his knock, this time off Tabraiz Shamsi. At the halfway mark, Babar had already moved to 72, looking well set for a three-figure score. South Africa finally decided to take the pace off the ball in the slog overs to make scoring tough for Pakistan and the move finally paid off. Hendricks bowled an excellent 17th over where he saw Babar mistime a slower short delivery to perish for 90 and a similar delivery consumed new man Asif Ali, only for the umpires to rule it a no-ball after checking replays.

The decision didn't cause damage though as another slower short delivery eventually ended Ali's stay in the crease to add to Pakistan's pressure. Hussain Talat, who struggled to time on quite a few occasions, stepped up to reach his half-century but Chris Morris had the last laugh when he castled the left-hander. Imad Wasim caused some panic in the hosts' dressing room by fetching six off his first two deliveries but another delivery bowled full and straight from Morris saw the allrounder lose his middle stump. The onus was on Shoaib Malik to do it all by himself in the final over and he did begin with a ferocious boundary straight down the ground to keep his side's hopes alive. The slower delivery once again came to South Africa's rescue three balls later as Malik just failed to clear the man at the midwicket boundary which eventually sealed his side's fate.

Earlier in the day, David Miller led South Africa's charge at the death overs to guide them to an impressive 188 for 3 after being asked to bat first. At one stage, only 170 was on the cards with Pakistan applying the brakes at the back end of the innings. But Miller took on Usman Shinwari in the final over of the innings that yielded 29 runs.

South Africa made a cautious start with debutant Janneman Malan and Reeza Hendricks adding only nine runs in the first three overs. While Reeza continued to struggle to score at a brisk pace, Malan upped the ante with a couple of sixes off Shinwari in the fourth over of the innings as South Africa made 44 in the powerplay. Malan's momentum was cut off completely by Imad though as the left-arm spinner troubled the debutant by delivering a maiden first up.

Malan's misery came to an end in Imad's following over when he stepped down the track and completely missed the ball to get stumped. The wicket came at the right time for the home side as Rassie van der Dussen improved the scoring rate with a couple of sixes and a four in the space of five deliveries. But Pakistan struck again immediately with Shadab Khan making a pretty good effort to catch Hendricks short of his crease.

Three overs later, van der Dussen mistimed one to get dismissed for a well-compiled 45 just when he appeared to shift the balance of the game towards his side's favour. Rain immediately put a temporary halt on the game but no overs were lost, much to the delight of the packed venue. Even though Shaheen bowled an excellent 19th over, Miller spoiled the party with a flourish in the final over.

Brief scores: South Africa 188/3 in 20 overs (David Miller 65*, Rassie van der Dussen 45; Imad Wasim 1-9) beat Pakistan 181/7 in 20 overs (Babar Azam 90, Hussain Talat 55; Andile Phehlukwayo 3-36) by 7 runs.

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