An astonishing century from Babar Azam led Pakistan to a remarkable, record-breaking nine-wicket victory in the third T20 International against South Africa at Supersport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.
Chasing a formidable target of 204 for victory, the tourists galloped home with two overs to spare with Babar making a breathtaking 122 from a mere 59 deliveries with 15 fours and four sixes. His century came from only 51 balls, the fastest for Pakistan.
The opening partnership of 197 was a record for Pakistan and it was also their highest successful run chase in T20 Internationals.
Babar was finally dismissed with just seven runs required for victory when he edged Lizaad Williams to Proteas captain and wicketkeeper, Heinrich Klaasen. The opening partnership with Mohammad Rizwan was worth a numbing 197 in just 17.4 overs, a chastening experience for South Africa’s hapless and helpless attack.
Rizwan went almost unnoticed such was the quality and precision of Babar’s assault but his unbeaten 73 from 47 balls (5x4, 2x6) was an innings of high class – but not nearly as glistening as his captain’s.
Aiden Markram and Janneman Malan both scored half-centuries of their own to power South Africa to what appeared to be a competitive total of 203-5 after being asked to bat first and their opening stand of 108 in under 11 overs appeared to put the hosts in the driving seat.
Markram led the way with 63 from only 31 balls with six fours and four sixes. He was especially severe on the seamers, Hasan Ali’s first over was blasted for 18. It was Markram’s third consecutive 50 in the series following scores of 51 and 54 in the first two games.
Malan’s maiden T20I 50 included five fours and a pair of sixes, one of which was his glorious, trademark drive over extra cover. Both men fell to left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz — Markram bowled and Malan top-edging a reverse sweep for 55 from 40 deliveries. George Linde’s promotion to No 3 maintained the frenetic tempo as the left-hander smashed a four and two straight sixes in his 22 from 11 balls before he was bowled off a bottom edged pull by seamer Faheem Ashraf.
Captain Heinrich Klaasen also made a brisk start with 15 from 10 balls and Rassie van der Dussen took the Proteas past 200 and onto their highest T20 total against Pakistan with an unbeaten 34 from 20 balls (1x4, 2x6).
All five of Pakistan’s bowlers conceded more than nine runs per over but far worse was to come for the Proteas with Beuran Hendricks (5-0-55-0), Tabraiz Shamsi (3-0-39-0) and Sisanda Magala (3-0-38-0) all conceding over 12 per over. Williams, at least, could hold his head high with a return of 1-34 in his four overs.
Pakistan now take a 2-1 lead into the final match of the series at SuperSport Park on Friday.