Intermittent rain foiled Pakistan’s chances as Reeza Hendricks and Faf du Plessis forged an unbeaten 108-run stand for the third wicket to take South Africa to a 13-run win in the third One-Day International in Centurion. The win helped the hosts take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
A fifth ODI century from Imam-ul-Haq saw Pakistan amass 317/6 in their 50 overs. With dark clouds hovering, Hendricks kept up with the DLS par score and along with his captain ensured when rain intervened the hosts were ahead on 187/2 in 33 overs. A long interval took place and in the end, the umpires decided the outfield was not fit enough to play.
South Africa came out in their run chase with gusto with Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock racing to 36/0 in the first six overs before Hasan Ali struck. The pacer having been carted for a four the previous ball kept at it and got Amla to chip a harmless delivery straight into the hands of Azam at short midwicket for 25.
De Kock having scored an enterprising 33 fell to a piece of brilliance from Shadab Khan. The leg-spinner stationed at backward point took advantage of the mix-up between Reeza Hendricks and de Kock to pin the stumps down at the non-striker’s end and find the latter short.
The weather opened up soon after South Africa were on 88/2 in the 17th over. Once the game restarted a good 45 minutes later, Hendricks took the initiative to go for his shots. While Faf du Plessis rotated the strike, Hendricks kept finding the boundaries. He reached his half-century in 53 balls and looked in pristine touch all through.
Even with the clouds hovering, the duo kept at it and when the rain came falling again they had ensured South Africa were 13 runs ahead of the DLS par score at the stage.
Earlier, electing to bat first on a placid track, Pakistan were rocked early with Beuran Hendricks taking just seven balls to claim his maiden ODI wicket getting rid of opener Fakhar Zaman, who went for an ugly cross-batted-heave only to top-edge it straight into the hands of Kagiso Rabada for 2.
Babar Azam was flamboyant from the outset, getting off the mark with a four and along with Imam got the innings going. He had a chance on 9 when Andile Phehlukwayo fluffed a simple chance off Beuran and Azam made sure he capitalised.
South Africa blew hot and cold in the field giving away way too many freebies as both Imam and Azam made merry. While the latter was more circumspect in his approach, Azam cashed in on anything loose to race to a fifty in just 56 balls. Both batsmen took a particular liking to wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi carting him all over the park. Imam too reached his ODI half-century getting there with a slap over backward point off Dale Steyn.
Azam was dropped once again, this time by Shamsi but couldn’t make the most of it as he fell in the very over trapped lbw by Steyn for a well-crafted 69 in 72 balls which included seven fours and a six. The 132-run stand for the second wicket between him and Imam made sure gave Pakistan had a solid foundation.
Hafeez, coming in at No.4 made sure none of the momentum was lost as he got going with two cracking fours off Shamsi. Even he was dropped on 10 this time by Hashim Amla as the hosts looked lacklustre on the field.
Pakistan crossed the 200-run mark in style with Hafeez slamming Beuran for a six and a four in the 36th over. The 38-year-old soon reached his half-century off just 44 deliveries before a stunning one-handed catch by Phehlukwayo ended his innings on 52 with the scoreboard reading 220/3 in the 39th over.
Imam meanwhile carried on unperturbed sailing through the 80s. When on 90 the left-hander became the second quickest to reach 1000 runs in ODIs - 19 games - only behind his opening partner Fakhar Zaman. He did not take time to reach his fifth century in the 50-over format and as he completed the single that took him to the landmark, he pointed to his mouth gesturing all his critics to stay silent.
When asked about his gesture in an interview with SuperSport television after his innings, Imam laughed and said: “Everybody knows I am the nephew of the chief selector (Inzamam-ul-Haq) and that was a message to all the Pakistan media and all the Pakistan people who criticise me."
He was dismissed almost immediately afterwards for 101, made off 116 balls which was laced with eight fours but not before making sure he laid a solid foundation.
Imad Wasim then finished the innings with a flourish slamming an unbeaten 23-ball 43, sharing a 52-run stand off 31 balls with Shoaib Malik (31) for the fifth wicket as Pakistan added 91 runs in the last ten overs.
For the hosts Steyn was the pick of the bowlers returning 2/43 in 10 overs while Phehlukwayo and Shamsi, the two most successful bowlers when South Africa won the second match on Tuesday, conceded a combined 146 runs in 19 overs.