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Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq anchor the chase as Pakistan win a thriller

Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq anchor the chase as Pakistan win a thriller
April 2, 2021

CENTURION – Pakistan bagged crucial ICC Cricket World Cup Super League points after sealing a thrilling three-wicket win over South Africa in the first ODI.

Babar Azam’s starred with a sensational hundred while Imam-ul-Haq contributed with a vital fifty before Mohammad Rizwan and Shadab Khan’s late contributions helped Pakistan seal a last-ball thriller.

Earlier, being put in to bat, South Africa managed a total of 273/6 despite a stumbling start after losing three early wickets in the powerplay, thanks to a maiden international ton by Rassie van der Dussen and a fifty by David Miller. 

The dangerous Quinton de Kock (20) was the first batsman to fall, miscuing one to Azam off Shaheen Afridi’s bowling. His opening partner, Aiden Markram, who was making a return to ODIs after 2019, got off to a decent start, hitting three fours and a six before he misjudged the length and mistimed the ball to Faheem Ashraf, a double breakthrough for Afridi (2/61) in the same over. 

The South African captain Temba Bavuma came out to bat at number three but was sent packing cheaply for 1 after he lofted a short ball straight to third-man where Afridi took a neat catch.  

Heinrich Klaasen was given out LBW but reviewed the decision to reveal the ball hitting the inside edge onto the pads overturning the decision effectively. His extended stay on the crease wasn’t to last long as he nicked the ball to the keeper off Ashraf (1/25) bowling, ending his grappling innings of 1 in 21 balls.

South Africa were reduced to 55/4 in the 15th over and their innings needed reconstruction which Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller obliged to take forward. 

Van der Dussen and Miller stitched together a solid partnership of 116 runs for the fifth wicket, resurrecting the innings. Miller (50) looked threatening as he laid down a foundation to go big but was dismissed by Haris Rauf (2/72) immediately after he reached his fifty from 56 deliveries.  

His partner, van der Dussen produced a sublime knock of 123* from 134 balls which was studded with 10 fours and two sixes. The assistance of Andile Phehlukwayo (29) and Kagiso Rabada (13*) gave the hosts a fighting chance with a competitive total on the scoreboard.

While chasing, Pakistan lost Fakhar Zaman (8) early, who chopped over the stumps becoming Rabada’s one and only scalp of the match.

Imam-ul-Haq was accompanied by captain Azam on the crease. The duo stitched a 177-run stand from 175 balls for the second wicket, and Pakistan looked on track in their chase. 

The Pakistan skipper's 104-ball 103 laced with 17 fours before he became Anrich Nortje's first victim, soon after reaching the milestone of his 13th ODI hundred.

Nortje got a foot in the door for South Africa as he snared three more wickets in his second spell to challenge the odds. The paceman sent the other set batsman, Imam, back to the dressing room for a well-made 70 off 80 balls.

He continued the onslaught from his end showing grit and perseverance to take the wickets of debutant Danish Aziz (3) and Asif Ali (2) with an express pace of over 140kph. 

Pakistan suddenly seemed to be stuttering in the chase after being reduced to 203/5 after Nortje's bowling effort of 4/51.   

Rizwan (40) and Shadab (33) steadied the ship but both lost their wickets on the brink of victory to Phehlukwayo (2/56). With only three runs required off the last over, Ashraf (5) scored the winning runs on the last ball of the match.  

South Africa will look to even the series scores when they meet Pakistan in the second ODI on Sunday, 4 April. – ICC