Faf du Plessis and Reeza Hendricks struck solid 70s as South Africa halted Pakistan’s nine-match winning streak in the 20-over format taking the first Twenty20 International at Newlands in Cape Town by six runs in what turned out to be a nail-biting affair.
Du Plessis and Reeza Hendricks put on a show batting first with the duo forging a 131-run stand for the second wicket in just 73 balls to take the hosts to a strong 192/6. Pakistan then had their moments in the chase with Babar Azam, Talat Hussain and Shoaib Malik all getting runs but none of them could stay till the end as the visitors were restricted to 186/9 in their 20 overs.
Putting South Africa into bat, Pakistan surprisingly started with spin from both ends a move which backfired. Malik’s first over went for 12 runs while Imad Wasim’s opening over went for seven as South Africa raced to 19/0 after two.
Wasim, however, pulled things back with the wicket of opener Gihahn Cloete who slapped a loopy delivery straight to Fakhar Zaman at point for 13. That though remained Pakistan’s only success for the next 12.1 overs as du Plessis and Reeza Hendricks made merry.
Du Plessis was off the blocks right away with two consecutive fours off pacer Hasan Ali. Reeza Hendricks too collected a boundary off Wasim as the hosts finished the PowerPlay on a strong 48/1.
The South African captain was in his elements on the day as he brought out his full repertoire of strokes. He ramped Faheem Ashraf for a six the very next over after the PowerPlay and followed it up with an equally cheeky dab down to the third man boundary. Even leg-spinner Shadab was not spared with both batsmen upping the scoring rate by the over.
It was not long before du Plessis reached his half-century getting to the landmark with a hack over deep midwicket followed by another four in the same direction taking just 29 balls. Reeza Hendricks not far behind then got stuck into pacer Usman Shinwari first clubbing him for half a dozen over cow corer and then ending the over with a pull down to fine leg. The opener too reached his half-century taking 31 balls as Pakistan bled.
The mammoth 131-run for the second wicket was finally brought to a halt by left-arm pacer Shinwari who picked up two wickets in the 16th overs to peg things back slightly. Du Plessis was the first one to go falling for a 45-ball 78 that included six fours and four sixes before Rassie van der Dussen fell two balls later with Mohammad Rizwan taking a brilliant catch behind the stumps diving to his right.
Reeza Hendricks struck a couple more crisp fours but fell shortly after for a 41-ball 74 to Shinwari with Shadab Khan taking an outstanding catch running in from the long off boundary. The opener’s innings was laced with eight fours and two sixes.
Pakistan came back well in the last five overs conceding just 35 runs and picking up five wickets to wrest some of the momentum. Shinwari was easily the pick of the bowlers for the visitors returning 3/31 in four overs.(Image Credits: AFP)
The chase for the visitors started on the wrong foot with Zaman falling off just the third ball of the innings edging Beuran Hendricks straight to first slip for 4. Azam, the No.1 T20I batsman in the world then strode out and thumped his first ball for a four to signal ominous signs.
Both Azam and Hussain then quickly got into their groove to take their side forward. Junior Dala, Chris Morris and Beuran Hendricks were all taken to the cleaners as Pakistan raced to 58/1 after six overs.
Once the field spread and the slower bowlers came in, run-scoring became slightly tougher for the batsmen. Boundaries were hard to come by which also increased the pressure on the batsmen. That pressure finally resulted in the wicket of Hussain, who looking to score a few runs against left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi could only mistime one straight into the hands of Beuran Hendricks at long off bringing curtains on the 81-run second wicket stand. Talat’s 32-ball 40 included five hits to the fence.
A brilliant piece of fielding then brought about the downfall of the set Azam as South Africa clawed their way back. Malik clipped a nonchalant leg stump delivery straight to David Miler at short midwicket who alert as ever saw Azam lurking out of his ground at the non-striker’s end and in one swift motion threw the stumps down to find the batsman short. Azam’s knock was brought to a halt on 38 (27 balls) which included three fours and a six.
Bilal Asif struck a four and a six off Junior Dala but soon fell nailing Chris Morris straight down deep midwicket’s throat for 13 while Wasim fell the very next over caught at the long on boundary for 4.
It was all down to the Pakistan captain to resurrect his side’s chase thereon and he did not disappoint. He went about collecting boundaries despite losing partners and his side never looked out of the game while he was in.
However, as Pakistan lost wickets at crucial intervals the game got tighter for them. Malik though was still there as the game went into the last over with the visitors needing 17 to win. But Morris bowled a nerveless final over nailing his yorkers to precision while also accounting for Malik (49) to take his team over the line.
For the hosts, Shamsi, Beuran Hendricks and Morris all chipped in with two wickets apiece.