5 best batting performances from Pakistan's tour of South Africa

Babar Azam
Babar Azam

The recently concluded Pakistan tour of South Africa was one where the visitors enthralled us all with their patented flashes of brilliance, but South Africa dug deep and won the “moments”, going on to claiming all three legs of the series. Though they won the Tests and T20Is quite easily, Pakistan ran the hosts quite close in the ODIs. But for a rain-marred game, the result could have gone either way.

This series also unearthed a genuine batting talent for South Africa in Rassie van der Dussen, who seems to have the potential to be an all-format batsman for the team. Andile Phehlukwayo looks to be coming into his element as well. Pakistan saw the continual meteoric rise of Babar Azam across formats, with the likes of Imam-ul-Haq, Shaheen Afridi, and Faheem Ashraf putting forth good performances as well.

The series was much more closely contested than the results would suggest. Here’s a look at the top 5 batting performances (across formats) in Pakistan’s tour of South Africa –

#5 Babar Azam – 1st Test – 71 off 79 Balls

Babar Azam is undoubtedly turning into the Crown jewel of Pakistan’s batting line-up. Perhaps not since Mohammad Yousuf has there been a Pakistani batsman as fluent and composed as Babar.

And he compiled a brave, counterattacking innings against the marauding South African pacers that didn’t just capture eyeballs all around, but seriously questioned his position in the batting line-up. Coming in at 62-4, Babar saw wickets tumble at the other end, as Pakistan slipped to 111-8.

It was then that he unleashed a repertoire of clinical strokes that had everyone awestruck for the next 10 odd overs. He was especially severe on Dale Steyn as he returned to the attack for his third spell. 10 fours in 4 overs, and a 71 off 79 balls later, an enterprising innings came to an end thanks to Kagiso Rabada.

While this innings didn’t lead anywhere for Pakistan, the sheer audacity and brilliance of it earns it a spot in the Top 5.

#4 Quinton de Kock – 3rd Test – 129 off 138 Balls

South Africa v Pakistan - 3rd Test
South Africa v Pakistan - 3rd Test

One of those lads who’s in prime position to take on the mantle of Adam Gilchrist in Test cricket.

This innings was a clear indicator as to why the similarities are more than just their batting positions. Coming in at 93-5, when the lead was 170, nowhere close to being a winning total, de Kock in company with Amla and the tail crafted a showpiece of an innings which ensured that South Africa would complete the clean sweep of Pakistan.

His first Test century in over two years, de Kock scythed through the Pakistani attack as no one was spared from his wielding bat. A potentially match-winning innings in a format in which he hasn’t been able to replicate his ODI performances, was truly a cathartic one for de Kock.

And in a match that was won by 107 runs, this innings truly did make a difference.

#3 Mohammad Hafeez – 1st ODI – 71* off 63 balls

Hafeez's masterclass took Pakistan home in the 1st ODI
Hafeez's masterclass took Pakistan home in the 1st ODI

Professor Hafeez compiled an innings of such effortless excellence during Pakistan’s chase of 267 in the 1st ODI, that it wouldn’t be out of place in a masterclass of finishing ODI games.

He played the kind of innings that has been second nature for him throughout his career but has often been overlooked. He was ably helped by Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam, but as Pakistan wobbled a bit towards the last 10 overs of the chase, Hafeez took them to safety with this classy, chanceless innings.

On what was a slow pitch, Hafeez picked the ball much better than any other batsman in both teams and found the boundary ever so easily to always keep the pressure down. While the winning hit didn’t come from his bat, the experienced stalwart was the one who ensured his team would win.

#2 Rassie van der Dussen – 2nd ODI - 80* off 123

The measured Rassie van der Dussen led South Africa to victory
The measured Rassie van der Dussen led South Africa to victory

While it was the experience of Hafeez that took Pakistan through in the first ODI, it was the measured calmness of newbie van der Dussen that took South Africa to a victory in the 2nd ODI.

Easily the find of the series, van der Dussen didn’t just bring up his second half-century in as many matches, but he soaked in all the pressure of taking South Africa from 29-3 to the finish line of 204.

Ably supported by Phehlukwayo, who scored an unbeaten half-century himself, Dussen played an unruffled innings on what was a challenging pitch against a pretty good (and fired up) Pakistani bowling attack.

He showed the composure and maturity of an experienced hand, played to the situation, and never once played a false shot or gave Pakistan a chance. South African eventually won with 8 overs to spare, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Dussen’s steadfast innings.

#1 David Miller – 2nd T20I – 65 off 29 Balls

David Miller was at his belligerent best
David Miller was at his belligerent best

This would be a good time to bring up the cliché of a “Captain’s Innings”. With the score at 126-3 after 16.1 overs, SA needed a bit of magic to take them to a respectable score. And it was Miller magic that saved the day for South Africa.

In what was a truly epic T20 match, David Miller’s free-flowing innings of 65, which also included a maniacal 29 runs off the last over turned out to be the difference maker. His fearsome reputation of being among the best T20 batsmen when on song was on full display here, as he unleashed a range of shots which featured 4 boundaries and 5 hits over the ropes.

Pakistan eventually fell 7 runs short of the target, further accentuating the importance of the last over sprint from Miller.

A special shout out would also go out to Babar Azam’s fantastic 90 for Pakistan, which was a treat to watch for connoisseurs of all formats of cricket, but unfortunately couldn't take the team to a win.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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