Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
South Africa 188 for 3 (Miller 65*, van der Dussen 45, Imad 1-9) beat Pakistan 181 for 7 (Babar 90, Talat 55, Phelukwayo 3-36) by seven runs
It took 29 runs off a frenetic final over from David Miller as Pakistan lost the plot just after the rain break, and Pakistan spent 20 overs trying to undo the damage. Despite the best efforts of a scintillating Babar Azam, who stroked a superlative 90 in a mammoth partnership with Hussain Talat, the 188 South Africa had put up thanks to a 29-ball 65 from their stand-in captain was seven runs too many for Pakistan. For the second time in as many matches, Pakistan fell short in the final over, allowing South Africa to seal the series with a game to spare. It means Pakistan suffer their first series defeat in this format after a record 11 consecutive wins, their maiden reverse since the World T20 in 2016.
It might have been just a T20, but it was an epic, one for the ages. Spanning nearly four and a half hours thanks to a rain break, the full house at one of the most iconic sporting venues was rewarded for braving the elements. It was just after the rain break at the Wanderers that South Africa struck the blows that would, in hindsight, allow them to lift the trophy, with 56 runs scored off the final three overs; until then, Pakistan had bowled well enough to restrict South Africa to a total that appeared well below-par at a ground that has made its name for high-profile chases.
Shoaib Malik's choice to allow Usman Shinwari the final over on a day he had already conceded 34 off three backfired spectacularly, with Miller in the sort of irrepressible form that earns him his fearsome reputation. For most of the innings prior, South Africa had held on to wickets while preparing a platform for lift-off, without quite being able to achieve it. For the second time in as many games, Pakistan had Imad Wasim to thank for that, impeccable tightness ensuring he conceded an astonishing nine runs off his allotted quota. That, in an innings which, his overs removed, saw the hosts score 179 runs in 16.
Pakistan's chase looked on track for the best part of 15 overs, and they had their own golden boy Babar to thank for it. He started off by caressing Beuran Hendricks for three fours off the first three balls. It was a pattern he repeated no less than three times across an innings that would have been appreciated by connoisseurs of all formats, so classical were his shots and assured the execution. Even with the relatively early loss of Fakhar Zaman, Babar found in Talat a partner both willing and capable to continue the onslaught, and when 70 had been scored off just six overs, Pakistan may have begun to think they had compensated for profligacy at the back-end with pugnacity at the start.
But in a chase of 188, scoreboard pressure is relentless, and it always seemed like it might begin to tell on Pakistan at some point.
Lutho Sipamla, making his debut, showed why discerning followers of South African cricket speak of him with such gushing excitement, varying his pace with the intelligence and composure his senior teammates had failed to muster across the innings. He conceded only one boundary across a four over spell where Babar was kept quiet, and went at under a run a ball when every other South African quick had conceded at least nine per over.
With the rate raising in the last five overs thanks to a couple of tight ones, Talat's touch began to desert him. That put more pressure on 24-year old Babar, who somehow had to find a way to remain unbeaten till the end and keep the asking rate down all by himself. It took its toll off the first ball of the 17th over, with Beuran Hendricks forcing him to attempt clearing the longer cow corner boundary, where the fielder completed a simple catch.
From that point on, power shifted hands effectively, and it was Pakistan who found themselves struggling to keep up while South Africa simply had to manage the game. Coming back for their second spells, Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo were far better than they had been earlier, compounding the problems for Malik, who in the final over again found himself running out of partners. As he holed out and Imad Wasim had his middle stump knocked back, Pakistan, having surged so promisingly, ran out of partners, their unblemished record since the World T20 finally tainted.
South Africa had been put in to bat early on with Malik fearing the weather would play a big role, while Miller in sharp contrast said he would only focus on his own performance, given they couldn't control the weather. Rassie van der Dussen's 40 off 27 allowed Miller to come in at a time when he could play his free-flowing game. While the weather was out of Miller's control, he struck a six just before the rain break, following up with another four after. The weather might have had its say, but ultimately, it was the South African captain who truly had full control.
Over 20 • PAK 181/7
Shoaib Malik c van der Dussen b Phehlukwayo 6 (4b 1x4 0x6 15m) SR: 150
Hasan Ali b Phehlukwayo 1 (2b 0x4 0x6 6m) SR: 50South Africa won by 7 runs
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