South Africa vs Pakistan 4th T20I Preview: With the batting clicking, Pakistan hot favourites to seal series
While Pakistan's bowling might be struggling to find its feet, their batsmen, particularly Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, have more than made up for it.
Competitive series deserves competitive end
Just like the ODI series, which Pakistan won by 2-1, the T20Is have also been a close affair. Pakistan kicked off the series with a 4-wicket victory but South Africa pulled it back with a comprehensive win in the second match. Pakistan came out all guns blazing in the third T20I and won it in a canter by 9 wickets despite chasing 204.
Given that this is a 4-match series, South Africa can no longer win it. However, they still have an opportunity to draw level. The Proteas continue to miss the services of some of their top players due to IPL participation or injury, but have still kept themselves in the fight.
Having recovered from his injury, Rassie van der Dussen made an appearance in the last T20I in the place of Wihan Lubbe. Pakistan brought back both Fakhar Zaman and Haris Rauf while dropping Sharjeel Khan and Mohammad Hasnain.
Markram shines bright
The way the South African openers began in the 3rd T20I, it looked as if South Africa were headed for a score of well over 200. Both Janneman Malan and Aiden Markram scored half centuries. While Malan scored 55 off 40 deliveries with the help of 5 fours and 2 sixes, going at a strike rate of 137.50, Markram was even more dominant with 63 off 31 deliveries with 6 fours and 4 sixes at a strike rate of over 200.
This was Markram's third consecutive half century and it is amazing to realize that the batsman was not even South Africa's second choice opener. With all three of Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma and Reeza Hendricks unavailable, Markram got an opportunity and he has made the most of it.
George Linde made an 11-ball 22 while Rassie van der Dussen, returning to the side after injury, remained unbeaten on 34 off 20 deliveries. Despite South Africa slowing down towards the last few overs, they managed to score over 200.
Mohammad Nawaz was the most impressive bowler for Pakistan, conceding 38 runs from his 4 overs. Faheem Ashraf and Shaheen Afridi picked up one wicket each. Hasan Ali bagged the prized scalp of Heinrich Klaasen but was very expensive.
In reply, Pakistan were all over the South African bowling attack like a rash. After seeing off the first two overs, Babar Azam took George Linde for a couple of boundaries and the momentum never shifted from there on.
Azam raced to 122 off 59 deliveries with the help of 15 fours and 4 sixes while going at a strike rate over 200. What's special is that he played proper cricketing shots and there was not a single slog in his innings.
Mohammad Rizwan played the foil to Azam, but did so at a strike rate of over 150, scoring 73 off 47 deliveries. He was at the crease to take Pakistan over the line alongside Fakhar Zaman who struck a couple of boundaries to finish the job with two overs to spare.
Lizaad Williams was the most impressive bowler for South Africa, but the inexperience in their bowling unit clearly showed.
Tied series a fair result
With the kind of performance the visitors put in in the 3rd T20I, they have become hot favourites to take the series. If South Africa win, all they will be able to achieve is to draw level, which will not be that bad an outcome for either team.
South Africa might bring in Kyle Verreynne in place of Pite van Biljon to further strengthen their batting line up. Pakistan will consider picking one pacer between Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain, both of whom have been expensive in the opportunities they've got.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
South Africa - Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen (c & wk), Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, George Linde, Andile Phehlukwayo, Sisanda Magala, Beuran Hendricks, Lizaad Williams, Tabraiz Shamsi
Pakistan - Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Haider Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Usman Qadir, Mohammad Hasnain/Haris Rauf
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