Pakistan beat hosts South Africa in South Africa in the three-match ODI series to reconsolidate their position as the team to beat in world cricket in the 50-over format.
Pakistan’s performances in the T20Is and Tests in the past decade were fantastic during the Misbahul Haq reign and even in the times of Sarfaraz Ahmed as captain, however, ODIs were the weak link in both skippers’ tenures.
Apart from the freakish Champions Trophy win in 2007, Pakistan were always lurking below the fifth spot in ODI rankings.
But that seems to be changing now with a stable Babar Azam captaining the side in all formats.
These are the three things that Pakistan did right, or happened right for the Men in Green as they beat South Africa 2-1 on the latter’s home turf.
Fakhar Zaman hits form
No one could have predicted this, but selectors’ trust in the left-handed batsman Fakhar Zaman paid off as he scored two consecutive centuries to reassure everyone that he is the best choice for Pakistan at the top of the order.
A majestic knock in a losing cause in the second ODI gave Fakhar the confidence, which he had lost after a series of bad performances.
Many are now calling him an impact player, who delivers on big occasions and when Pakistan play in this year’s World T20, they will be hoping that Fakhar is clearing the boundaries just as he did against South Africa.
Cool and calm Babar
Being the captain of the Pakistan cricket team in all formats is not an easy job. The pressure that comes with the expectations of nearly 220 million people to always win is perturbing. However, Babar has transitioned into the role perfectly.
History tells us that whoever was made the captain of the Pakistan team wilted under pressure and lost his own touch in batting or bowling. But Babar is not everyone and he proved that by posting scores of 103, 31 and 94 in the three matches, respectively.
His exploits with the bat have now pushed him to the number one spot in ODIs, and he is also winning matches as captain. Talk about the perfect choice for captain.
Chasing with confidence
Pakistan are known to falter in easiest of chases, to be honest it has become their trademark. You bat first and then win the match easily if you’re playing Pakistan.
However, against South Africa, Pakistan elected to chase twice in the first two ODIs, a rather adventurous move from the Men in Green.
Chasing in the first ODI paid off as they won the match by three wickets, although on the final ball of the match, but nonetheless they won.
In the second ODI too, if any other batsmen would have stood firm with Fakhar, Pakistan would have easily chased the 342-run target. Even a lone warrior Fakhar nearly took them past the finish line.
In the last ODI, South Africa played to Pakistan’s strength and tried to chase themselves, however, Pakistan’s bowling line-up never gave them a sniff of victory while chasing a 321-run target.
Now, no one knows why Pakistan are suddenly chasing after winning tosses rather than defending, but it can be due to the fact that Pakistan now have a world-class batsman Babar in their ranks and also, they trust their batting line-up to not fall like a deck of cards.
Whatever the reason, the move is paying off for Pakistan.
More to track…
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