Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman proves his worth in ODI deciders once again

Ajit Vijaykumar 20:24 30/01/2019
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Fakhar Zaman.

Pakistan rate opening batsman Fakhar Zaman very highly. Despite an indifferent 2018 and a horror Test series in South Africa, Pakistan knew Fakhar is worth persisting with.

In the fifth and final ODI against South Africa in Cape Town on Wednesday, the left-handed batsman showed why he is so crucial in  Pakistan’s batting plans.

Asked to bat first in the deciding match of the series, Fakhar lost in-form opening partner Imam-ul-Haq to an ugly shot early in the innings. Seamer Dale Steyn had his tail up but Pakistan knew the Proteas were short on bowlers as they had picked only three frontline bowlers in Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir.

But it wasn’t going to be that easy. All-rounders Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo took out batting mainstays Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez fairly cheaply. After blasting Steyn for more than six an over, it was a let down from the visitors.

But Zaman tried to hold the innings together. His 73-ball 70 went a long way in helping Pakistan post a challenging total of 240-8. They can also thank all-rounder Imad Wasim’s 31-ball 47 for the total but it was Fakhar who laid the foundation for the total.

With his effort on Wednesday, Fakhar showed he is invaluable when it comes to ODI deciders. In the preceding three-match ODI series against New Zealand in the UAE late last year, Pakistan had fallen behind after losing the first game. In the second match, Zaman spanked a run-a-ball 88 to chase down 210 and level the series. In the deciding ODI in Dubai, the left-handed opener carved 65 to help post 279-8 but rain didn’t allow Pakistan’s bowlers to put pressure on New Zealand’s batting.

And who can forget his match-winning century in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy against India? That was the match that truly announced his arrival on the international stage and he is now firmly entrenched at the top of the order; at least in white ball cricket.

In the fifth ODI on Wednesday, Fakhar was hit flush on the helmet by a quick Steyn bouncer. But unlike the Test series where he was tied down with that strategy, Fakhar grew stronger and made another critical contribution. Another feather in his cap.

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