Fakhar and Nawaz help Pakistan fend off South Africa for series triumph

By Sports Desk April 16, 2021

Pakistan sealed a 3-1 triumph over South Africa in their Twenty20 series despite almost matching a wretched batting collapse by the hosts in the Centurion finale.

The Proteas slumped from 109-2 to 144 all out amid a display of artless batsmanship to set Pakistan just a modest victory target, yet the chasing side almost threw away the match with an implosion of their own.

Eventually they won by three wickets with one ball to spare, Fakhar Zaman smashing 60 from 34 balls and Mohammad Nawaz clinching victory with a six when just two runs were required.

Babar Azam's century had spurred Pakistan to a nine-wicket win in the third game of this four-match series, but where that contest, also at Centurion, was a run-fest, with both teams topping 200, this time South Africa were masters of their own downfall.

Aiden Markram came into the match behind three successive T20 fifties, attempting to be only the third player, after Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle, to make four in a row.

He was the first batsman to be dismissed, however, lbw to Nawaz, and although Janneman Malan (33) and Rassie van der Dussen (52) then put on 57 for the second wicket, there was little other resistance to be found among the South Africa batsmen.

Faheem Ashraf tormented the top order for figures of 3-17 in four overs, while Hasan Ali rebounded well from being carted for 29 in his opening two overs, finishing with 3-40.

In Pakistan's reply, Fakhar came to the crease after Mohammad Rizwan slumped to a first-over stumping, and the left-hander soon set about the home attack, crunching five fours and four sixes before being caught as a wild swipe at Lizaad Williams sent the ball skywards.

His departure triggered the second heavy flurry of wickets in the match, Pakistan sliding from 92-1 to 129-7, needing someone to find some composure.

Nawaz was that man, first punishing Sisanda Magala for delivering two consecutive no-balls in the penultimate over, flogging his second free hit over the ropes. In a nervy final over, Nawaz (25 not out) picked off Williams from the fifth ball, pulling square over the boundary for the winning runs.

Chaos reigns

A contest littered with chaotic cricket was perhaps best summed up by the first delivery of the ninth over in Pakistan's reply. Tabraiz Shamsi's delivery was short, sat up and called for severe punishment. Even so, Fakhar looked sure to miss out on a boundary as George Linde moved to sweep up inside the boundary. Yet Linde inexplicably failed to get his body in the way of the ball. Really rather poor all round.

Hasan heroic

While Faheem and Haris Rauf (2-18) kept it supremely tight throughout their spells, the same could not be said for Hasan, who came in for some brutal early treatment. It takes sporting courage and skill to rebound from two horror overs, and he demonstrated such attributes by taking three wickets in his next two sets of six, including that of Magala from his final delivery.

Related items

  • Hazlewood moves top of ICC's ODI bowling rankings ahead of Boult and Siraj Hazlewood moves top of ICC's ODI bowling rankings ahead of Boult and Siraj

    Australia's Josh Hazlewood has moved to the top of the ICC's ODI bowler rankings for the first time in his career after Mohammed Siraj slipped to third. 

    Siraj conceded 37 runs off just three overs in India's 10-wicket loss to Australia on Sunday, which caused the paceman to slump behind Hazlewood and New Zealand's Trent Boult.

    Mitchell Stark took 5-53 in that rout, equalling the record number of five-wicket ODI hauls by an Australian bowler.

    Hazlewood's rise to the top of the rankings comes despite the 32-year-old having not played in an ODI since November, while his last appearance in any format came in January.

    However, he is expected to be back playing for this year's Ashes series in England, which commences on June 16 at Edgbaston.

    Meanwhile, Kane Williamson has moved up four spots to second in the Test batting rankings behind Marnus Labuschagne. 

    Williamson scored a remarkable 215 runs in New Zealand's victory over Sri Lanka in their two-match series, which the Black Caps won 2-0.

  • 'Unicorn' MVP Ohtani emulates Babe Ruth in World Baseball Classic final 'Unicorn' MVP Ohtani emulates Babe Ruth in World Baseball Classic final

    Shohei Ohtani was described as a "unicorn to the sport" by United States manager Mark DeRosa after he led Japan to victory in the World Baseball Classic final.

    Ohtani struck out Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout to seal a 3-2 victory in a thrilling conclusion in Miami on Tuesday.

    Named the tournament's MVP, Ohtani ticked off a list of achievements during the game that had only ever previously been matched in an MLB or WBC game by the legendary Babe Ruth in October 1921.

    The 28-year-old started in the batting lineup, drew a walk, got a hit, came on to pitch in relief, struck out a batter and was the finishing pitcher.

    "What he's doing in the game is what probably 90 per cent of the guys in that clubhouse did in Little League or in youth tournaments, and he's able to pull it off on the biggest stages," DeRosa said. 

    "He is a unicorn to the sport. I think other guys will try it, but I don't think they're going to do it to his level.

    "What blows me away on this stage is the fact that no moment is too big for him. He did not seem rattled by walking Jeff McNeil on a close pitch, not rattled that three MVPs were coming up to bat."

    Ohtani himself was happy to accomplish one of his career goals by winning the tournament, and believed the victory over the USA was also proof that Japan can get the better of anyone.

    "In my baseball life, [winning the World Baseball Classic was] one of the things that I wanted to achieve," Ohtani said. "Today I was able to achieve one of the goals.

    "Of course, I happened to get the MVP, but this really proves that Japanese baseball can beat any team in the world."

  • Mancini searching for Italy solutions as Southgate sends England Euros stars back to the well Mancini searching for Italy solutions as Southgate sends England Euros stars back to the well

    "It has now become a 'classico'," said Roberto Mancini ahead of the latest episode of Italy-England.

    Thursday's encounter – which kicks off Euro 2024 qualifying – will be the sides' fourth since Mancini took the Italy job in 2018 and their fifth since Gareth Southgate became England manager in 2016.

    Prior to this match, Southgate has only faced Germany more often, yet the Azzurri are one of just four opponents his England team have played without winning (also France, Colombia and Brazil).

    That sequence of results includes the Euro 2020 final, of course, and so revenge might be on the minds of the Three Lions.

    Of the 16 England players who played some part in that Wembley shoot-out defeat, 14 were named in Southgate's squad for this month's qualifiers. Raheem Sterling – one of the other two – was also name-checked by Southgate, missing due to injury.

    Rather than rebuild his side after coming so close, Southgate has stuck by his trusted lieutenants. He has handed out 20 or more caps to 22 different players across his England tenure and included 17 of those in his latest group – Sterling, again, is one of the other five.

    It figures that Southgate should have faith in the best England side since 1966, even if his predictable squad selections frustrate some supporters.

    Mason Mount and Marcus Rashford subsequently dropped out of the squad but were not replaced, with the manager seemingly reluctant to gamble on the introduction of a new face – particularly at this key juncture at the start of a new cycle.

    "Now you have to start again," Southgate explained last week. "I know exactly where our most senior players are with that challenge: they are ready.

    "The [Jordan] Hendersons, the [Harry] Kanes, they set the tone for that sort of mentality that is going to be needed."

    How Italy would love to have the problems that face Southgate, both in having to rally quickly following a World Cup campaign – one Mancini's men watched from home – and in juggling elite talents and having to shut the door to others.

    Less than two years have passed since Italy won the European Championship, yet the 17 players they used in the final were, on average, two years older than the 16 of England.

     

    If this is the last run for Southgate and some of his most reliable stars – and it surely is – the same was already true for Italy at the Euros.

    Only nine of those 17 players were retained by Mancini this month, naming a squad that included three teenagers and four uncapped players, along with the returning Matteo Darmian, whose last international outing pre-dates the Azzurri coach.

    Far from confidently regenerating his squad, however, Mancini is casting around for answers. He has capped 88 players in 57 matches; Southgate has capped 88 players in 81 matches.

    Where only five of England's 25-man squad have earned 10 caps or fewer under Southgate, there are 15 in the 30-man Italy group who are yet to reach that milestone under Mancini.

    Of course, that includes Darmian, but it also includes Mateo Retegui, an Argentinian-born, Argentinian-raised and Argentinian-based forward at Tigre.

    While his involvement prompted some controversy, going against Mancini's previous stance on calling up players not born in Italy, the coach explained: "In Italy, there are few. We are worse off than Southgate. If there is a chance to take new players, we take them."

    It is a high-pressure situation Retegui is entering, potentially being tasked with leading the line against the toughest opponents in Italy's group.

    Mancini has acknowledged his team cannot afford a slow start in a "very important" first game as they look to right the wrongs of their previous qualification campaign, but he has been left little choice but to take risks.

    By contrast, getting to major tournaments has not until now been a problem for the risk-averse Southgate.

    A 'classico' in Naples may yet inform the England boss whether that can remain the case with the same group of players at a third straight finals.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.