Pakistan struggle with the bat but impress in the field
The five-match ODI series between Pakistan and South Africa ended with the hosts winning it 3-2. There were several talking points throughout the five games.
We take a look at the five biggest takeaways from the series.
Sarfraz’s racial Slur
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s racial comments towards South African all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo became the main talking point of what was a highly competitive five-match series. The International Cricket Council (ICC) handed a two ODI and two T20I ban to the wicketkeeper-batsman for his actions but relations between the two sides remained civil throughout, with South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis and Phehlukwayo himself both forgiving the 31-year-old Sarfraz.
Imam-ul-Haq’s shows his opening prowess
The young left-handed opening batsman had a lot of questions to answer, mainly due to his reputation as a flat-track bully and his relation with chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq. Imam answered all of them in emphatic fashion, finishing the series as its highest scorer with 271 runs to claim the man-of-the-series award. Imam scored two half-centuries as well as a century and was pivotal in helping Pakistan get off to good starts, especially since opening partner Fakhar Zaman took his time finding his feet.
Improvement in Pakistan’s fielding
The advent of the Pakistan Super League has helped Pakistan unearth a whole array of young talent, most of whom are superb fielders and bring vital energy into the side.
The likes of Babar Azam, Imam, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Hasan Ali are all great fielders. This may well be one of Pakistan’s best-ever fielding sides as they managed to outperform South Africa in the field, which was one of the reasons why Pakistan managed to remain so competitive throughout.
Veteran middle-order batsman Shoaib Malik took over the reins when Sarfraz Ahmed was suspended. Malik led the side to a comfortable eight-wicket victory at Johannesburg and was lauded for his astute captaincy and leadership. The victory kicked off discussion in certain quarters of the country as to whether he can be a suitable replacement for Sarfraz as skipper for the upcoming World Cup. However, it is highly unlikely that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will opt for a change so close to the mega event.
Batting struggles under pressure
Batsmen on both sides seemed to crumble under the pressure and Pakistan were once again left empty-handed due to the failures of their batsmen. The visiting middle-order struggled throughout the series and failed to grab the ascendancy during pivotal moments of the games, with Babar and Imam showing up most of their teammates.