Babar Azam credits hard work and patience, while Heinrich Klaasen bemoans SA's finishing with the bat
JOHANNESBURG – Babar Azam credited patience and hard work for his stunning performance in the third KFC T20 International at SuperSport Park on Wednesday that propelled his Pakistan side to a nine wicket win against South Africa.
Chasing 204, the Pakistan captain made 122 off only 59 balls, the highest T20 score by a Pakistani batsman, as his side reached their target with 12 balls to spare. He and Mohammad Rizwan shared a partnership of 197 for the opening wicket, also a new Pakistani record for the first wicket.
"I had been waiting for this for a long time, I had planned for a long time, and today Allah has given me a chance to finish it,” he told SuperSport in a post match interview.
The feature of Babar’s innings, as it was in the first One-Day International at the same venue when he also made a hundred, was how relaxed he looked at the crease. He struck 15 fours and four sixes, but with the exception of one shot off an inside edge for four, those remaining boundaries were all played in the most ;languid and stylish fashion possible.
It was the innings of a master, who on this tour, has elevated himself into the category of the elite batsmen of the current era.
Pakistan's highest 1st wicket partnership in T20Is:— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) April 14, 2021
Mohammad Rizwan & Babar Azam - 197 v 🇿🇦 at Centurion (Today)
Mukhtar Ahmed & Ahmed Shehzad - 142 v 🇿🇼 at Lahore (22 May 2015)
Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt - 142 v 🇧🇩 at Gros Islet (1 May 2010)#SAvPAK | #HarHaalMainCricket pic.twitter.com/h26HXV35zw
“I stick to my strengths and play according to them, and the team's requirements. I also achieved a dream in one-day cricket today (becoming the No. 1 ranked batsman). I struggled hard, there was a lot of hard work that went into it. I keep trying to learn and add new things to my game, and I will keep trying to do the same,” Babar, explained.
He reserved praise for Rizwan, who just loves playing against South Africa, and in making an unbeaten 73 on Wednesday, notched up his fifth score of 40 or more against the Proteas in the last six matches against them.
“Rizwan bhai also played an outstanding innings. He was fasting, and he batted and he kept wickets, and he was outstanding. We get a lot of confidence and belief looking at him.”
“It was something (to watch) from behind,” said South Africa’s captain Heinrich Klaasen. “They batted brilliantly and we had no answer for them. Babar is a special batter and when a guy like that comes off it is very difficult to defend on this ground.”
“We tried a lot of things, we tried to go ‘death’ early. They made a lot of good balls, that were well executed, look bad just through very good placement and good strokeplay. It was difficult from a captaincy point of view.”
South Africa scored 203/5, but Klaasen, who plays his domestic cricket at SuperSport Park, said at the halftime interval, he felt his side were at least 10 runs short. “ Once again maybe lost a bit of momentum at the back end,” he said. South Africa batted at the same rate throughout their innings, and while scoring at 10 runs an over is not to be sneezed at, South Africa weren’ able to increase that rate.
“One thing we're guilty of over the last three games, is that not one of our batsmen who made 50 went on to make a big score."
Aiden Markram has made three fifties in a row – matching the record achieved by Hashim Amla five years ago – but as Rizwan showed in the first match and both he and Babar showed on Wednesday, the top order really does need to cash in on those good starts.
49 - Balls for Babar Azam’s 100, the fastest by a Pakistani batsman, eclipsing the previous mark of 58 by Ahmed Shezad.
122 - The highest score by a Pakistani batsman in T20 Internationals, topping Shezad’s 111* against Bangladesh.
197 - the highest opening partnership for Pakistan. The previous best was 142.
204 - Pakistan’s highest successful run chase in T20 Internationals, beating the 189 they made last Saturday at the Wanderers.
5 - Wednesday was the fifth time, a total of 200 or more has been successfully chased down against South Africa. The Proteas and New Zealand, both share that unenviable record.