Irrepressible Pakistan captain Babar Azam delivered a batting masterclass at SuperSport Park as they crushed SA by nine wickets to take a 2-1 lead in this four-match series.
In a breathtaking knock of flair, ingenuity and composure, Babar thumped a near flawless century to once again show that he is one of the best batsmen in the world across all formats.
He ended his shift on 122 off 59 balls, a knock that included 15 boundaries and four maximums, as Pakistan bludgeoned this lightweight Proteas bowling attacking with 12 balls to spare.
Babar was supported by his wicketkeeper, Mohammad Rizwan, who scored a useful 73 off 47 balls, during this ruthless act where they exposed the weaknesses of this makeshift Proteas team that is bereft of several starting players due to injuries and the Indian Premier League.
The visitors needed their top-order batsmen to step up after SA became the first team in seven years to score more than 200 in a T20 match on a good flat wicket in Centurion.
This was also the first time Pakistan chased down a score of over 200 in T20s and their job was made easy by the Proteas bowlers who struggled for control.
Babar won the toss and inserted SA to bat and the Proteas responded with a good batting show of their own to score 203/5 in their 20 overs, but Babar and Rizwan had other ideas with a partnership of 197 off 107 balls.
Pakistan reached their target with relative ease after 18 overs, Rizwan unbeaten on 73 and Fakhar Zaman on 8, leaving SA with the task of having to win the final match on Friday at the same venue to at least level the series.
In their innings, SA got off to a good start with openers Aiden Markram and Janneman Malan putting together a first-wicket stand of 108 off 64 to lay a solid foundation.
They were so dominant against Pakistan bowlers in the early stages that after the powerplay they were on 65/0, with Markram having scored 35 and Malan following him closely on 28.
Four overs later their partnership reached the 100-run mark with Markram on 56 and Malan, who achieved his well-deserved maiden T20 half-century in this match, standing on 42.
In the process, Markram scored his third successive half-century and registered his highest T20 score, but his party came to an end in the 11th over and with his wicket began the SA collapse. His wicket brought an end to his partnership with Malan.
He was soon followed by George Linde, Malan, Heinrich Klaasen and Andile Phehlukwayo and ultimately the SA innings ended on 203, which proved not to be enough as Pakistan triumphed by a comprehensive nine wickets.
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