Babar stars as Pakistan down South Africa in ODI series opener

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CENTURION: Pakistan have defeated South Africa in a last-over thriller by three wickets in the first ODI of the series here at SuperSport Park, Centurion.

A brilliant century from skipper Babar Azam, impressive 70 by opener Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Rizwan (40) and Shadab Khan’s (33) rescue knock,

Faheem Ashraf struck a boundary at the last ball of the match, completing Pakistan’s jittery chase of 274 runs.

Earlier, Rassie van der Dussen struck his maiden ODI century and led South Africa to an imposing 273-6 after Babar put them to bat first.

Dussen was outstanding with the bat as he managed to rescue the home side from 55-4 alongside David Miller.

Pakistani bowlers were on the song as they picked up Quinton De Kock first and then a couple of more wickets to set South Africa on the back foot.

De Kock fell prey to Shaheen Shah Afridi after scoring 20 off 18 balls with the help of three boundaries and a six. Aiden Markram was another wicket for Afridi who looked in solid touch.

Mohammad Hasnain and Faheem Ashraf bagged Temba Bavuma and Heinrich Klaasen quickly to further dent the hosts.

Thereafter, Dussen and Miller stood like a wall and smashed Pakistani bowlers with slow pace which later on converted into a panic situation for the visitors. They both scored 116 runs together and dominated the day for South Africa.

Miller got out after scoring 50 laced with five boundaries. Whereas, Dussen remained not out for 123 spread over 10 boundaries and two maximums. Andile Phehlukwayo contributed 29 runs.

Afridi and Haris Rauf bagged two wickets each while Hasnain and Faheem shared a wicket apiece.

Pakistan started the chase by losing the wicket of Fakhar Zaman in the third over. Pacer Kagiso Rabada clean bowled him putting Pakistan on the back foot.

But skipper Babar and Imam-ul-Haq had different ideas. The duo added 177 runs for the second wicket, breaking their own record of the highest second-wicket partnership.

The duo put Temba Bavuma, newly appointed South Africa’s captain into thinking. Bavuma made changes in the attack, however, it wasn’t fruitful.

In the process, Babar reached his 13th ODI century while Imam scored his eighth half-century. Babar became the fastest to reach 13 ODI centuries, breaking the record of South Africa’s Hashim Amla, who reached this feat in 83 ODI innings.

Babar’s inning included 17 fours and he batted at a strike rate of 99.94 while Imam’s inning included singles and doubles. He only three fours and a six.

Soon after Babar reached his century, the collapse happened of which Pakistan is quite famous for. Pacer Anrich Nortje started to bowl good line with healthy pace, removing Babar (103), Imam (70), debutant Danish Aziz (3) and Asif Ali (2) in no time.

Pakistan was saved by the most productive batsman in recent times, Mohammad Rizwan who rescued with an impressive 40 off 52 balls.

Rizwan was removed by Andile Phehlukwayo in the 48th over when Pakistan needed 18 off the last 16 balls.

The drama continued till the last over as vice-captain Shadab Khan was the seventh man to depart, scoring 33 off 30 balls.

Phelukwayo seized Faheem Ashraf on three consecutive balls and didn’t allow him to score a single run, however, Faheem struck the boundary of the last ball to hand Pakistan their ninth win in the last ten ODIs.

For South Africa, Nortje finished with figures of 4/51 in 10 overs while Phehlukwayo bagged two for 56.

The second ODI of the series will be played on April 4 at Wanderers, Johannesburg.

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