Babar’s masterclass, Rizwan’s clever feat give Pakistan a 2-1 unassailable lead in T20 series; Rizwan optimistic of series win

From our correspondent

CENTURIAN: Babar Azam (122) and Mohammad Rizwan (73*) shared a record opening stand to enable Pakistan take a 2-1 lead in the four-match T20 series when they humiliated South Africa by nine wickets in a high-scoring game here at the SuperSports Park on Wednesday (today).

Babar’s maiden T20 hundred which came off 49 balls and Rizwan’s 47-ball gutsy knock enabled Pakistan to ensure their highest successful chase when they raced to the 204-run target with 12 balls to spare after losing just one wicket.

Babar, who had brought in his fifty off 29 balls, batted with ease, hammering almost every bowler of South Africa to completely put them out of the game.

The duo added 197 runs for the opening stand which is the highest ever in Pakistan’s T20 history. It surpassed the 143 runs previous highest first-wicket stand which had managed by Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad against Zimbabwe at Harare on August 24, 2013. Babar, who fell after taking Pakistan very close to victory, smashed 15 fours and four superb sixes in his 59-ball knock.

Rizwan, who had got out for a first-ball duck in the previous game after scoring 74 not out in the opener, batted perfectly, hitting two sixes and five fours in his nice knock.

Fakhar Zaman (8*) hit two fours in the end to finish off the game in Pakistan’s favour. It was an extremely tough day for the South African bowlers as both Babar and Rizwan punished them severely before sealing a win with an enviable ease.

Lizzad Williams turned out to be the most successful bowler with 1-34 in four overs.

After being invited to bat first South Africa had once again put up a superb batting display led by Aiden Markram who brought in his third fifty on the trot by smacking 31-ball 63. Markram, who struck four sixes and six fours, added 108 in 64 balls for the opening stand with Janneman Malan who struck a 40-ball 50, featuring two sixes and five fours. Rassie in the end smacked a quick-fire 20-ball 34 not out, striking two sixes and one four. George Linde, who was promoted in the batting order because of his aggressive batting tendency, hit 11-ball 22, smacking two sixes and one four to enable the hosts post 203-5 in 20 overs.

Left-arm spinner Nawaz Ahmad picked 2-38 in four overs. Babar Azam was adjudged as man of the match.

Mohammad Rizwan said they had planned to win the power-play. “We had planned to win the power-play and we kept it simple and succeeded. And from there we caught momentum and we were able to carry it until the end,” Rizwan said. “We were thinking that we would win with ten wickets to set a world record and Babar also was thinking many things. This was the second time when me and Babar stitched a long partnership as the other was in a Test match in Australia. Before that when we came together either me would get out or Babar,” Rizwan said. He also appreciated bowling unit for restricting South Africa to 203.

“It was a 230 and 240 wicket and I appreciate our bowlers who did well in the death overs. Nawaz, Shaheen and Hasan Ali did well. And the way Faheem bowled in the middle was superb,” Rizwan said. “We are now 2-1 up and we will try to work hard and seal the series. The best thing is that everybody is working hard. We will put in our best on the field and will leave results on God. The nation should pray for us as InshaAllah we would win the series,” Rizwan said.

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