Pakistan secured a four-wicket victory to go 1-0 up in the four-match T20I series against South Africa, with Mohammad Rizwan starring with a 50-ball 74*.
His knock, combined with a late, explosive cameo from Faheem Ashraf, helped Pakistan come good in a difficult chase after South Africa, riding on half-centuries from Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen, posted 188/6 after opting to bat first.
South Africa, despite missing a host of their stars, seemed confident of coming away with a victory after seeing off the dangerous Babar Azam for a run-a-ball 14, and then claiming a host of wickets in the middle overs.
However, Rizwan was terrific from the off. His explosive start negated, to an extent, Azam’s slow start, with Pakistan having put up 41 within five overs before Azam was seen off by Beuran Hendricks. The wicket didn’t deter Pakistan, with Fakhar Zaman taking the attack to the bowlers from the outset.
Zaman and Rizwan added a quick 45 for the second wicket, and Pakistan seemed well placed as they approached the 10th over, with the scoreboard at 86/1. However, the leg-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi prompted a miscue from Zaman, and the left-hander holed out.
The wicket triggered something of a slide. Mohammad Hafeez (13), Haider Ali (14) and Mohammad Nawaz (0) were all dismissed without making much of a dent on the scoreboard, and at 132/5 in the 16th over, Pakistan still had it all to do.
However, Ashraf’s explosive cameo along with Rizwan’s composure helped Pakistan through to victory as the inexperienced South African attack wilted in the death overs. The duo added 48 in just 24 balls to take Pakistan to the brink, and Rizwan was there at the end when victory was brought up with a ball to spare.
Earlier, Markram and Janneman Malan, the South Africa openers, started the innings in contrasting fashion: Malan was on the aggressive, while Markram opted for a more watchful approach. Malan was soon dismissed, trapped leg-before for a 16-ball 24 by Nawaz. Wihan Lubbe, the debutant, was then masterfully deceived with the slower ball by Hasan Ali, and South Africa were 36/2 within five overs.
Despite that, South Africa didn’t take the foot off the gas. Markram and Heinrich Klaasen joined forces and stitched together a 62-run partnership for the third wicket in just 33 deliveries. Markram went on to score his maiden T20I half-century, but couldn’t build on that, succumbing to Nawaz with an outside edge.
South Africa didn’t slow down. Another half-century partnership followed with Klaasen and Pite van Biljon adding 61 runs for the fourth wicket, with the captain smashing his way to 50 off just 24 balls.
In the death, Klaasen became Hasan Ali’s second victim as he attempted a scoop, but miscued it to a fielder. Pakistan capitalised on the opening, keeping things tight and drying up the boundaries for South Africa.
Debutant Sisanda Magala and Andile Phehlukwayo scored 14 runs off Shaheen Afridi’s final over to help Proteas reach a total of 188/6 – it proved insufficient on the day.