Babar Azam celebrates his whirlwind century during the third T20 match at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday. Image: Twitter
Babar Azam hit a sensational 122 from 59 balls to lead Pakistan to 205-1 for a resounding nine-wicket win over South Africa and a 2-1 lead in their Twenty20 series on Wednesday.
Babar marked the day he unseated Virat Kohli to become the top-ranked ODI batsman in the world with another brilliant limited-overs innings, albeit in the shortest format this time.
The Pakistan captain opened the batting and blasted his way to a century as Pakistan chased down a seemingly testing target of 204 with ease.
Babar Azam poses with the man of the match trophy after the third T20 match. AFP
The tourists romped home in 18 overs, with Mohammad Rizwan crashing 73 from 47 balls at the other end after opening with Babar. Their partnership of 197 from 107 balls ripped the game away from a South African team that felt it was in position for victory after posting its own strong score of 203-5 in 20 overs.
Babar fell just two balls from the end trying to ramp a delivery from Lizaad Williams over third man and edging it to wicketkeeper Heinrich Klassen.
That denied Pakistan the world record for the highest successful chase in T20s without losing a wicket.
Lizaad Williams (R) dejected after losing during the third T20 match against Pakistan. AP
Fakhar Zaman smashed two fours off the next two balls to end it and ensure Pakistan can't lose the series with one game to play. Pakistan also won the ODI series in South Africa.
Babar has 186 runs from three innings at an average of 62.00 in the T20 series and averaged 76.00 in the ODI series. Earlier Wednesday he ended Kohli's more than three-year stay at the top of the ODI rankings.
Aiden Markram plays a shot as wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan looks on. AFP
South Africa appeared to have exposed Pakistan's decision to bowl first at SuperSport Park when openers Aiden Markram (63) and Janneman Malan (55) made half-centuries and the host posted its highest total ever against Pakistan.
But Babar stroked 15 fours and four sixes to underline his scintillating form and see Pakistan to a highly impressive victory.
South Africa: Heinrich Klaasen (capt, wkt), Aiden Markram, Janneman Malan, Rassie van der Dussen, Pite van Biljon, George Linde, Andile Phehlukwayo, Sisanda Magala, Beuran Hendricks, Lizaad Williams, Tabraiz Shamsi
Pakistan: Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (wkt), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Haider Ali, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf
Umpires: Bongani Jele, Allahudien Paleker (both RSA)
Television umpire: Adrian Holdstock (RSA)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)
South Africa need 19 runs to win off the last over, but medium pacer Faheem Ashraf held his nerves to keep the visitors down to 166-6 while Bjorn Fortuin (17 not out) and Dwaine Pretorius (15 not out) could manage only 15.
The 31-year-old took 5-17 in his four lethal overs as Pakistan — sent in to bat — rode on a 41-ball 51 by wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan on a slow Gaddafi stadium pitch. Faheem Ashraf hit a fiery 12-ball 30 not out.
Tail-ender Hasan Ali finished with a seven-ball 20 not out as Pakistan overhauled a 165-run target in 18.4 overs to win the series 2-1, South Africa's first T20I series defeat in Asia. South Africa had previously won five and drawn one T20I series in Asia.
I am not going to make excuses. We've still got to try and win with whichever players we put on the park but it has been tough. There have been a lot of positives. With the opportunities that have been given, a couple of guys have come through with flying colours," he said
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