The Proteas’ bowling attack made Pakistan look like invincible world-beaters in the third T20 International at Centurion on Wednesday.
JOHANNESBURG – Babar Azam delivered another masterful innings at SuperSport Park as Pakistan successfully chased a total of more than 200 for the first time.
The Pakistan captain has already produced an innings of rich quality on this tour – in the opening ODI at the same venue – and Wednesday’s performance was also packed with classical shots. Babar, made 122 off just 59 balls, hitting 15 fours and four sixes, and was more aggressive than in the ODI, because this situation demanded it, after South Africa had batted along at 10 an over throughout their innings.
The pursuit of a target as substantial as 204 was completed comfortably with 12 balls to spare. A large part of that was the mastery of Babar, who was superbly supported by the Proteas’ nemesis, Mohammad Rizwan, who scored 73 off 47 balls.
South Africa played their part in the field too – the bowling, was awful, worse even than the first match at the Wanderers, where the ‘death’ bowling in particular had been dreadful.
The fielding too, was horrible, with two misfields in the second over, setting the tone for what was another ragged performance, that also featured a dropped catch by Pite van Biljon. He missed a fairly simple chance at point offered by Rizwan on 51 off Beuran Hendricks at the start of the 14th over.
It may not have made much of a difference in the outcome, but given how South Africa has fielded across formats this season, it must be a real concern for the coaching staff, because the fielding is a genuine weak area in the side’s play.
The inconsistency of the bowling can be understood in the context of South Africa’s being an inexperienced attack at international level, but a lot of the players have also played plenty of T20 cricket, and so the inability to control lines and lengths is inexcusable.
Both spinners, George Linde and Tabraiz Shamsi delivered far too many short balls, which the Pakistan openers feasted on with relish. In total, South Africa bowled 17 dot balls in 18 overs, illustrative of the lack of control.
There was also a lesson for the batsman, in the way Babar played. Both South African openers; Aiden Markram and Janneman Malan, made half centuries, but one of them really needed to bat deeper into the innings. At the halfway point South Africa were 100/0 and it would have been expected that they would accelerate from that position. But both were dismissed before the 15th over, meaning a mini-rebuild had to occur and that probably cost South Africa much needed momentum.
When Babar didn’t locate the boundary, he and Rizwan ran magnificently between the wickets putting South Africa’s outfielders under pressure.
Babar has already risen to No.1 in the rankings in the ODI format, and Wednesday’s knock, will put him in that conversation about the sport’s elite modern-day batsmen – a group populated by Smith, Williamson, Kohli and Root.
Babar deserves that recognition, and poor as South Africa were in the field, the quality of his batting is what this third match in the series must be remembered for.