Hafeez, Imam inspire Pakistan to hard-fought win

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In a game that had its fair share of momentum shifts, Imam-ul-Haq (86) and Mohammad Hafeez (71*) played vital hands to steer Pakistan past the finishing line by five wickets against South Africa in the first ODI in Port Elizabeth. The visitors chased down the target of 267 in 49.1 overs.
At 185 for 2, with Imam and Hafeez still at the crease, Pakistan looked on course to post their first win against South Africa on the current tour. At that stage, Imam skipped down the track and cracked one towards cover where Reeza Hendricks grabbed a sharp catch. The wicket of Imam gave South Africa small window of opportunity to make a comeback.
Hafeez, though, continued to play with positive intent. He smacked Duanne Olivier for a six and then charged down the track to loft Imran Tahir for another six. However, there was another twist in the tale when Shoaib Malik, the veteran batsman, edged one onto the stumps off Andile Phehlukwayo while Sarfraz Ahmed was prised out LBW by Imran Tahir. The Pakistan captain took the review but to no avail.Pakistan needed someone to take the responsibility and guide them past the final hurdle. It was Hafeez who played with a calm head on his shoulders and in company of Shadab Khan took the visitors home. Hafeez’s composure in the slog overs can be capsulised by how he paddled and lofted Olivier for a couple of fours in the 47th over.Imam, the opener, also deserves a large share of the credit for Pakistan’s victory. He and Fakhar Zaman (25) gave Pakistan a breezy start. The duo was helped by Kagiso Rabada and Olivier’s curious tactics of banging it short on what was a slow track. Once Fakhar was dismissed, Imam found an able ally in Babar Azam (49). The pair pinched singles and twos and also cracked the occasional boundary to keep the required rate below six.In the 28th over, against the run of play, Reeza Hendricks accounted for Azam’s wicket. However, by then, the pair had set the platform for Pakistan’s victory.Earlier, Rassie van der Dussen (93) and Hashim Amla (108*) stitched a massive stand of 155 for the second wicket as the duo propelled South Africa to a fighting total. After electing to bat, South Africa made a rather cautious start. It was Hendricks, who tried to up the ante with flicks and the occasional drive. In the 10th over, Amla joined in the act by expertly bisecting the gaps to punch and steer it to the boundary boards.In search of wickets, Pakistan even took a desperate review for an LBW against Amla in the 18th over only for replays to confirm that the ball pitched outside the line of leg stump. However, in the same over, Shadab Khan prised out Hendricks by tempting him to play the slog sweep only for the opener to eke out a top edge to the square leg fielder.At that juncture, van der Dussen, on his ODI debut, joined forces with Amla to string together a substantial partnership. The pair had to deal in a diet of singles and twos. It was only in the slog overs that van der Dussen decided to press the accelerator pedal by tonking Usman Khan for a four and a six. Unfortunately, he couldn’t reach the coveted three-figure mark on his ODI debut as he was dislodged by Hasan Ali in the 47th over.
Amla, however, was able to reach the milestone in the 48th over with a six off Mohammad Hafeez. Pakistan were very disciplined in familiar climes. Shadab gave away just 41 runs in his quota of 10 overs while Hasan found reverse swing with the old ball. As a result, South Africa could collect just 76 runs off the final 10.The home side struggled to adapt to the prevailing conditions. South Africa were also around 20 runs short of a good total.