The theme throughout the series had been Pakistan’s top-order struggles against South Africa’s strong pace attack. 78 for 5, 73 for 5, 73 for 5, 75 for 5, and 48 for 5, they kept finding themselves at situations where even remarkable and record-breaking partnerships weren’t enough to take them home. Once the top-order has been blown away by the South Africa bowlers, it felt like they were fighting a lost cause to salvage some respectability.
The tour started with Pakistan losing their regular skipper in Bismah Maroof as she opted out of the tour for personal reasons, ahead of the T20I series they lost the stand-in captain Javeria Khan to an index finger injury. Aliya Riaz taking over the duty didn’t bring any change of fortunes for the side, they were poor on the field - with the exception of Diana Baig, they kept repeating the same mistakes, the batting order came under scrutiny, non-selection of someone like Syeda Aroob Shah also led to criticism from various quarters. So, all in all, whatever can go wrong has gone wrong.
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Although Pakistan’s lower-order resistance took matches closer than they would have liked, South Africa weren’t made to work hard with their plans and continue to enjoy the unbeaten run in the series despite some lapses on the field from their part too. Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp have been exceptional throughout the series and took it one notch up in the T20I leg with Ismail bringing up her career-best figures in the second match. But they weren’t made to work hard by the Pakistan batters, Omaima Sohail looked promising in the first two ODIs, but once the South Africa pacers pulled back the length, she had no answers. Ayesha Zafar’s dismissals against Ismail in the first two T20Is have been a perfect example of Pakistan’s inability to learn from their mistakes.
On the batting front, Tazmin Brits has been the most impressive of the batters for the hosts with two fifties on a surface that didn’t seem conducive to stroke play with its slow, tacky nature. Making the most of the opportunities, she ran hard in the first match as boundaries were hard to come by and gradually opened up in the second match at the back end to guide South Africa to a competitive total.
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For Pakistan, young Ayesha Naseem has been the one bright spot during the T20Is so far. She looked at home at the crease and was not afraid to take on the bowlers, her 22-ball 33 in the second match was particularly impressive although she found herself at the wrong end of an Ismail bouncer in the final over of the match. While Pakistan might be tempted to push her up the order, they might be better of pushing the likes Nida Dar and Riaz to bat in the top four and control the innings than having to come in after a collapse.
After bagging the ODI series, South Africa made a few changes in the final ODI, so similar changes can be expected in the final T20I. Nadine de Klerk, who has been impressive in recent times, must be eager to get a look in along with someone like Anneke Bosch. The slower nature of the surface at the Kingsmead might see them also wanting to bring back Nonkululeko Mlaba to combine with Nondumiso Shangase. Pakistan will keep their fingers crossed for the return of Javeria and Aroob Shah might finally get an opportunity to show her credentials with the ball.
Will South Africa complete another whitewash or can Pakistan go into the Zimbabwe series with a consolation win?
South Africa: Sune Luus (c), Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty (wk), Mignon du Preez, Shabnim Ismail, Lizelle Lee, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Nadine de Klerk, Tumi Sekhukhune, Sinalo Jafta (wk), Marizanne Kapp, Lara Goodall, Nondumiso Shangase, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Faye Tunnicliffe, Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits.
Pakistan: Javeria Khan (c), Aimen Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Ayesha Zafar, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Kainat Imtiaz, Muneeba Ali (wk), Nahida Khan, Nashra Sandhu, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Nawaz (wk) and Syeda Aroob Shah.