Imam-ul-Haq scored his fifth ton as Pakistan posted 317-6 in the third ODI against the Proteas at SuperSport Park, reports KHALID MOHIDIN.
The Proteas were asked to bowl first, a decision that aligned with Faf du Plessis’ choice if he had won the toss. Three changes were made to the Proteas’ XI that saw Dale Steyn, Quinton de Kock and debutant Beuran Hendricks come in for Duanne Olivier, Heinrich Klaasen and Dane Paterson respectively.
The Proteas struck almost instantly through Hendricks when he drew Fakhar Zaman into playing across the line, the batsman top-edging the ball safely into the hands of Kagiso Rabada at midwicket.
Pakistan, however, recovered dangerously through Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam, who raced to their half-centuries to take the visitors well past the 100-run mark. They took their side through to 136-1, but then Steyn got a vital breakthrough with the slower ball, trapping Babar plumb in front of his stumps with his score on 69 just as the Proteas were beginning to look flat.
Imam and Mohammad Hafeez built a strong recovery partnership, despite the Proteas botching a couple of chances to dismiss the Pakistan veteran.
Rabada broke Pakistan’s momentum. He dismissed Hafeez after a well-played 45-ball 52 as Pakistan lost their third for 220 runs towards the end of the 39th over.
Imam starred for Pakistan and scored 101 off 116 balls that included eight fours. He lost his wicket at the end of the 43rd over to Tabraiz Shamsi.
Getting above 300 has always been key at Centurion, and Pakistan gunned for exactly that. Imad Wasim (43) and Shoaib Malik added 52 for the fifth wicket, and took Pakistan past 300 as the Proteas aimed to restrict the visitors over the final few overs.
Rabada dismissed Shoaib for 31 of 27 balls. Dale Steyn followed up with a fantastic second last over that only went for three runs and the wicket of Hasan Ali, thanks to a blinding catch from David Miller who sprinted in from long-on.
Pakistan scored 11 in the final over from Rabada to set the Proteas a testing target of 318, although the five dropped catches and some sub-par fielding from the Proteas added to Pakistan’s total, which is close to the highest-ever score for a side winning an ODI at Centurion.
Pakistan 317-6 – Imam-ul-Haq 101, Babar Azam 69; Kagiso Rabada 2-57, Dale Steyn 2-43
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images