Andile Phehlukwayo, seen here celebrating the wicket of Hasan Ali, defended 15 runs in the final over against Pakistan on Sunday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – David Miller didn’t need to score 65 runs off 29 balls with four fours and five sixes in a T20 International – 28 of those runs came in one over off Usman Shinwari, with an extra run from a no-ball too – to prove that he was worthy of a World Cup place.

He’s already assured of that.

But for the naysayers – and there seemed, very strangely, to be quite a number of those – Sunday afternoon offered further proof as the Proteas held on for a seven-run win over Pakistan to clinch the series 2-0.

Miller matters for the Proteas, he daren’t be left at home in June.

Miller makes runs when it matters. He averaged nearly 65 at the last World Cup.

His two most important innings came in crunch situations – an unbeaten 138 against Zimbabwe in South Africa’s opening game was made after the side had slumped to 83/4 (De Kock, Amla, Du Plessis and De Villiers all back in the dressing room), and in that semi-final against New Zealand, he scored 49 off 18 balls at the death.

Go back further to 2013 and the Champions Trophy semi-final against England – the Proteas, according to their coach at the time Gary Kirsten, choked and were bowled out for 175.

The not out batsman that day – David Miller, with 56 off 51 balls.

More recently, with the series against Australia tied at 1-1, Miller scored 139, a pivotal performance which helped SA win that series.

This match might not hold similar status as World Cup game, but there was a series on the line against what is currently the best T20 International team, and Miller delivered again as the Proteas scored 188/3 in their 20 overs.

As did Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo later with the ball.

Babar Azam had played a princely innings of 90, taking Pakistan to a point where victory looked assured.

Unlike Miller’s bludgeoning earlier, his was an innings of the highest class and control, with devilish shot-making.

At a point midway through the chase, it looked as if he could win the match by himself. But cricket, for all the brilliance an individual can produce, is still a team sport, and Babar was let down by his teammates, most notably Hussain Talat.

Talat scored 55 off 41 balls, but he used up valuable deliveries at a key point in the second half of the Pakistan chase, which put enormous pressure on Babar.

He eventually fell by playing a big shot towards mid-wicket.

Talat couldn’t finish the job for Pakistan, and neither could Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali or Imad Wasim.

Morris clean-bowled both Imad and Talat in the 19th over, leaving Phehlukwayo to defend 15 runs in the last.

Phehlukwayo, as he has shown for the Dolphins on a number of occasions domestically, thrives in that kind of situation, and even though Shoaib hit a boundary straight down the ground off the first ball, the all-rounder maintained his composure.

A pair of singles followed, and then Shoaib and Hasan Ali had their stumps disturbed, to the delight of most of the nearly 15 000 who came into the ground as Pakistan were restricted to 181/7.

It was a stunning conclusion to a thoroughly entertaining T20 match.

South Africa produced last-over heroics with both bat and ball from two players, who will both be present at the World Cup later this year.

@shockerhess


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