Du Plessis, bowlers secure 2-0 win
South Africa 150 for 5 (du Plessis 58*, Amla 48, Ajmal 3-25) beat Pakistan 144 for 9 (Maqsood 37, Parnell 3-25) by six runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Dale Steyn bowled it full, Shahid Afridi hit it cleanly, the boundary was in sight but there was something in the way. Faf du Plessis moved to his left, cupped his hands and snatched the ball out of the sky. In that moment, the match and the series was won.
It ended a period in which Pakistan lost six wickets for 38 runs in the space of 32 balls, which included a South African team hat-trick, to collapse one final time in the limited-overs leg of the tour. They squandered a good start and a resilient effort by Sohaib Maqsood, surrendered to a South African attack which has been exceptional throughout the series and left themselves with a lot of questions ahead of the return leg in South Africa.
For du Plessis, there are no such worries. His team has jumped to No. 2 in the Twenty20 rankings, behind India by one hundreth of a decimal point, showed composure and confidence with bat in hand and defended with venom.
Although South Africa's bowling won them the match, their foundation for victory was set-up by a batting line-up which has progressed through their visit to the UAE. They had an explosive start from Quinton de Kock followed by a hard-hitting fifty from du Plessis and both contributed to an above-par total.
De Kock took on both Irfan and Abdul Razzaq, whose medium pace was ineffective upfront. Irfan left the field with what looked like a hip injury in his second over, leaving Pakistan without their most imposing player but Sohail Tanvir assumed the responsibility. He bowled a tight opening over before spin was introduced and Pakistan clawed their way back.
Saeed Ajmal tempted de Kock with flight and had him caught in the deep slog-sweeping. That wicket made Ajmal T20's highest wicket-taker, going past his compatriot Umar Gul and kept South Africa quiet for a little while.
Hashim Amla had quietly watched de Kock, without scoring many, but targeted Afridi. Amla took a risk when he hit him inside-out over extra cover and then tried to launch it back over Afridi's head. Instead, he presented a catchable chance but Afridi spilled it. Dropping Amla often proved costly in the next over when he hit Mohammad Hafeez over long-on for six.
At the halfway stage, South Africa were 67 for 1 and du Plessis decided to up the ante. He also took on Afridi, finding good placement down the ground and brought up South Africa's 100 with a premeditated slog-sweep off Ajmal. Amla played one more big shot, off Shoaib Malik, before holing out off Ajmal.
Pakistan used that as an opportunity to drag South Africa back. They gave away just 35 runs in the last five overs and punctured the middle order, leaving du Plessis to muscle his way to the end. Tanvir made good use of the slower ball while Ajmal ensured questions over David Miller's ability against spin will continue to be questioned as he trapped him lbw.
In between that, du Plessis reached his fourth T20 half-century, much-needed runs in what has been a lean tour for him. He may remember his innings a little less than the catch that sealed the match which came after Pakistan's opening pair posed 39 in the first five overs.
Both Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad took on Lonwabo Tsotsobe before Wayne Parnell undid their start. He had Shehzad caught at fine leg, as he went on the pull, and Hafeez lbw for a first-ball duck. Hafeez was the victim of a poor decision but with no technology available to contest it, Pakistan had to focus on rebuilding rather than being wronged.
When Jamshed became the third wicket to fall in nine balls, Pakistan could have unraveled but Maqsood and Malik found a good balance between attack and defence. They went after anything short while treating Imran Tahir with respect as he found sharp turn.
Malik had his innings interrupted when he had to retire with a finger injury which brought Umar Akmal to the crease. He batted with his usual aggression but started the collapse when he hooked a Ryan McLaren short ball straight to Tahir. When he departed, Pakistan needed 50 runs off 39 balls and were still in control.
Malik returned, only to chop Tahir onto his stumps before Razzaq left a googly and was bowled. When Maqsood was caught behind, brilliantly as de Kock dived to his right, the equation had tipped. Pakistan needed 39 off 29 balls but had only three wickets in hand.
Tanvir and Afridi could still get them over the line but Tanvir was bowled by Steyn - who turned the pace up as his spell came to an end - and then there was that catch. Game, set, catch, match. Pakistan's fight was over.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent