After suffering two narrow losses in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Pakistan will look to close their South Africa tour on a high when they take on the hosts in the third and final T20 at the Centurion on Wednesday.
The Men in Green fell short by six runs in the first T20 before falling to a seven-run loss in the second and will have their pride at stake in their final outing against the Proteas.
The loss to South Africa broke a record run of 11 consecutive bilateral T20 series wins for No1 ranked Pakistan and they will be determined to reaffirm their credentials as the best in the format before they return home.
It has not been a fruitful tour at all for Mickey Arthur and his men who were whitewashed 3-0 in the Test series to begin with. The limited-overs leg has brought about some change in fortunes with the tourists running South Africa close in the five-match ODI series before going down by 2-3.
The controversy surrounding skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has not helped matters for Pakistan with the wicketkeeper-batsman earning a four-match suspension for his racially charged taunt towards Andile Phehlukwayo in the second ODI.
There is no doubt that a thorough autopsy of the performances will need to be conducted at the end of the tour for Pakistan but the visitors can take some heart from their white-ball performances in the past few weeks.
In fact, it has been Pakistan’s own failure to cross the finishing line more than anything which has seen the team trail 0-2 in the T20 series. In both the losses so far, the visitors looked to be on track for victories before inexplicably throwing it away at the death.
In the first T20 at Johannesburg, Pakistan were 113-3 at one stage in their chase of South Africa’s 192-6 before a lower-order collapse ensued. In the second T20 at Newlands, the Men in Green stumbled at the end with both bat and ball to ultimately go down by seven runs.
All their good work with the ball for 19 overs was wiped off single-handedly by David Miller who collected 29 runs from the final over bowled by Usman Shinwari. Then, the visitors were cruising in the chase of 189 and were 147-1 at one stage from 16 overs with Babar Azam going great guns.
However, Azam’s dismissal on 90 triggered a dramatic collapse which saw Pakistan ultimately slump to 181-7 from their position of strength.
Faltering at the final hurdle has cost Pakistan dear in South Africa so far and they have a chance to redeem themselves partially on Wednesday. The Men in Green will be hoping that opener Fakhar Zaman can rediscover his form with the left-hander falling cheaply in both matches so far.
Pakistan batsmen on average hit a six after 25 balls, the lowest six-hitting percentage for any team in T20Is in last two years.— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) February 3, 2019
South Africa today hit 11 sixes. Pakistan just 2. When they try, they get caught. If they can't hit sixes in Johannesburg, where can they? #RSAvPak
Another issue which has hampered Pakistan in the series has been their inability to deal in sixes. According to statistician Mazher Arshad, Pakistan’s batsmen on an average hit a six every 25 deliveries in the T20 format over the last two years. That is the lowest six-hitting percentage among any T20I team in that period and the visitors will want to show some improvement in that aspect.
In the six-hitting department, Pakistan have been outperformed 7-17 by South Africa in the two matches so far and it will be up to the likes of stand-in skipper Shoaib Malik, Hussain Talat and Asif Ali to step it up in Wednesday’s clash.
A win in the final T20 will not cover up Pakistan’s inadequacies in the Test format but it should help them keep their tails up ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England. Their limited-overs outfit remains a formidable one and could be real contenders for the global showpiece if they manage to iron out their flaws in the coming months.
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