Dubai: Skipper Babar Azam heaped praise on his star performers Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed after Pakistan outclassed South Africa in all facets of the game to keep their semi-final hopes alive in Group 2 of the Twenty20 World Cup in Sydney on Thursday.
“Very happy the way the team performed. Me and Rizwan were not up to the mark, but the way Haris played, he’s a different player and shifted the momentum. Then Shadab and Iftikhar were outstanding in finishing the innings,” Azam told the broadcasters during the post-match presentation ceremony.
Electing to bat first in a must-win game, Pakistan ran into trouble losing four quick wickets, including skipper Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, before Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed, who reached his second half-century in this World Cup, joined hands to clobber the South African bowling to give Pakistan a challenging 185/9 in 20 overs.
South Africa didn’t begin the chase well, but skipper Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram started finding the touch and were bringing the team back on track with Shadab Khan doing the real damage, claiming both the wickets. An untimely rain intervention washed out at least six overs from the game and South Africa were given a revised target of 143 in 14 overs following the Duckworth-Lewis Method. Needing 72 in five overs, the Proteas lost wickets at regular intervals and were unlucky to lose by 33 runs, which has also affected their net run rate.
Pakistan produced a perfect show in all areas including the fielding, which has not been their forte in the past.
“First two matches were close losses, but we’ve given 100 per cent in the last two matches and you never know, cricket is a funny game, we hope for the best,” Azam added.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammed Waseem and Naseem Shah were excellent in their pace attack and were too hot for South African batters to handle in the death overs.
Shadab Khan, the Player of the Match, for his 22-ball 52 and two wickets, said: “I’ve done it in the PSL, but this is an international match and a World Cup match, so its the best. The pitch was nice, a bit slow but the ball came on nicely,” said. Talking about his first ball wicket, Shadab added: “I tried to bowl on the stumps, bowled slow and it gripped a bit. Paid off.”
The victory has propelled Pakistan to third spot, above Bangladesh with both teams on same points. Pakistan need to beat Bangladesh to say in with a chance to seal the last-four spot on Sunday.
South Africa once again had the misfortune of losing in Sydney, from a seemingly winning position. Skipper Bavuma said he was disappointed with the South African bowling and fielding after letting Pakistan recover from 43 for four.
“We have questions to ask and need to come up with solutions. Credit to them, they had the momentum and took it with them through the bowling innings. We knew the weather could be an issue. The bowlers practice these things, but its difficult. We probably didn’t adapt quick enough, and we could have tried to use the bigger side more. Not an excuse, but they’re things we’ll speak about. Netherlands next, a big game. Want to put this game past us as quickly as possible and come again.”