Pakistan 168 for 9 (Rizwan 26, Asif 25, Beuran Hendricks 4-14) beat South Africa 141 for 9 (Morris 55*, van der Dussen 41, Amir 3-27) by 27 runs
Pakistan capped a difficult tour of South Africa with a win in the third T20I, avoiding a second whitewash across three formats and a first T20I clean sweep in over three years, claiming a 27-run win against the hosts.
They had a rocky start by South Africa in a chase of 169 to thank for it, with Imad Wasim building the early pressure as he has done all series. Rassie van der Dussen in the middle overs and Chris Morris at the death briefly kept South Africa in a contest that was getting away from them, but they had too much left to do, and Pakistan's bowlers ensured they would not be denied this time.
David Miller's decision to bowl first at the toss was a curious one given the hosts' success in the previous two T20Is making Pakistan chase. Over five years ago, this very ground had seen South Africa's heaviest T20I defeat, which also came chasing against Pakistan. And just as Pakistan had won the previous two tosses and gone on to concede the match, South Africa would repay the favour here, with all three games won by the side batting first.
It was by no means a lesson in innings construction, though, from Pakistan. Babar Azam began brightly with four fours in the second over as he picked up where he'd left off in Johannesburg. However, on this occasion, he could not take his innings beyond its brightly promised beginning, and when he reached out to a wide one from Morris next over, he found the cover fielder. A brightly flickering flame had been extinguished for 23, and from hereon, someone else would have to burden the responsibility.
Curiously enough, no one did, but Pakistan still found themselves with a more than competitive 168, the final power-boost afforded to them by Shadab Khan, who smashed three sixes in the final over to take them there. The highest scorer, however, was Mohammad Rizwan with 26; only twice before in T20I cricket has a side posted a higher total with no batsman reaching 30. Even as South Africa took regular wickets, Pakistan found men willing to contribute a handful of runs at a half-decent strike rate. Seven of the top nine attained scored in the constrictingly narrow range of 17 and 26. No one carried on, but they all chipped in.
South Africa may have been content at the halfway mark - that final over notwithstanding - with Beuran Hendricks' career-best figures looking certain to be the difference at one point. The left-arm pacer has impressed in what is still a very young international career, with a knack of picking up regular wickets. Here, that showed to its complete extent as Hendricks registered figures of 4 for 14. He removed Fakhar Zaman at the top before carving out the lower middle order: Imad, Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Amir all falling to the 28-year old.
A short ball that sat up first up from Imad was put away for four, but it was one of a rare few howlers he bowled all series. For the third game in a row, Imad operated at under a run a ball, conceding 19 in his four. The pressure he exerted with the new ball brought him the early wicket of Jaaneman Malan, but also helped the young Shaheen Afridi at the other end. He got the big breakthrough with a caught and bowled to get rid of Reeza Hendricks that properly got the belief coursing through Pakistan.
South Africa were well behind the asking rate, never, in truth, to catch up to it. Van der Dussen's best efforts got a partnership kickstarted with Miller in one of the brief passages of play where the home crowd had hope. When the stand-in captain scooped Shadab into the air, allowing the bowler an easy catch, van der Dussen followed shortly after. Just like Pakistan, no South African batsman was truly able to kick on with Andile Phehlukwayo reverse-sweeping a seam up delivery off Shadab Khan. It was a markedly improved match for the 20-year old, who has found T20 cricket a bit of a struggle over the past six months, even if the economy rate still requires work with the PSL a week away.
That left Morris playing a lone hand with the tail, burdened by an asking rate that was always far, far too high for a batsman also forced to farm the strike. He gave the crowd fleeting hope when he smashed Faheem for 21 runs in an over, but that was truly as good as it got.
There was time for the allrounder to give his personal prospects a shot in the arm, bringing up his maiden T20I half-century in the final over with successive sixes off Afridi. But the game had long since passed them by, and South Africa finished nine wickets down on 141. In a series where they keep all three trophies out of Pakistan's luggage, the disappointment will surely only be fleeting.