Sydney, Shadab Khan produced a brilliant all-round show while Iftikhar Ahmed and Shaheen Shah Afridi played their roles to perfection to keep Pakistans slim semifinal hopes alive in the Men's T20 World Cup with a 33-run victory over South Africa via DLS method in a rain-reduced Group 2 match at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.
The victory for Pakistan, who made 185/9 in 20 overs and restricted South Africa to 108/9 in 14 overs as per the adjustments by the DLS method, in Super 12s also meant that they maintained their perfect record over the Proteas in the history of Men's T20 World Cups with their fourth victory in as many meetings. Pakistan are now in third place in Group 2 points table, pushing Bangladesh to fourth place.
On a chilly evening, South Africa made early strikes to push Pakistan on the back foot. Captain Babar Azam (6), Mohammad Rizwan (4) and Shan Masood (2) fell to Lungi Ngidi, Wayne Parnell and Anrich Nortje respectively.
Young right-handed batter Mohammad Haris, who had earlier come into the squad as a replacement for Fakhar Zaman in the 15-man squad, entertained a near full-house crowd for some time with his 11-ball knock of 28, laced with two fours and three sixes at a strike-rate of 254.55 before being trapped lbw by Nortje.
Iftikhar stepped up to resurrect Pakistan's innings as he built a 52-run stand with Mohammad Nawaz (28 off 22 balls) and then established a crucial 82-run stand off just 35 balls for the sixth wicket with Shadab, who struck the second fastest fifty by a batter from the country in T20Is, to take Pakistan to 185/9, which looked absolutely impossible at one point.
While Iftikhar scored 51 from 35 deliveries, hitting three fours and two sixes at a strike rate of 145.71, Shadab's knock proved to be the game-changer for Pakistan as he smashed 52 from just 22 deliveries, including three fours and four sixes at a strike-rate of 236.36. The duo's efforts helped Pakistan get a very challenging total.
They were also helped by a sloppy fielding performance from South Africa, who squandered a good start with the ball in power-play. They dropped five catches apart from several fumbles on a greasy outfield.
In reply, Shaheen dismissed Quinton de Kock and Rilee Rossouw cheaply in the first three overs. But captain Temba Bavuma shrugged off his lean form with a 19-ball 36, hitting four fours and a six to lead the chase well until Shadab arrived in the eighth over.
In his first over of the night, Shadab found Bavuma's outside edge as the keeper completed the catch. One brought two for the leg-spinner when Aiden Markram was castled for 20. By the time play was interrupted due to rain after nine overs, South Africa were 69/4.
An hour's interruption caused by rain cut six overs from the chase and when play resumed South Africa needed 75 runs off the remaining five overs, with the target readjusted to 142 in 14 overs as per the DLS method.
Tristan Stubbs and Heinrich Klaasen, who came in as David Miller was ruled out to back spasms, hung around to hit some boundaries. But the pressure of a high asking rate was always going to be huge as Shaheen, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf picked up wickets in impressive fashion for Pakistan to stay alive in the race for the semifinals.
Pakistan now need to win their next match against Bangladesh at Adelaide on Sunday and then hope that either India or South Africa lose their final Group 2 matches to Zimbabwe and Netherlands respectively.
South Africa now need to defeat the Netherlands at Adelaide on Sunday, with their match happening before the Pakistan-Bangladesh clash on the same day to be in the reckoning for the last-four stage.
Brief scores: Pakistan 185/9 in 20 overs (Shadab Khan 52, Iftikhar Ahmed 51; Anrich Nortje 4/41, Wayne Parnell 1/31) beat South Africa 108/9 in 14 overs (Temba Bavuma 36, Aiden Markram 20; Shaheen Shah Afridi 3/14, Shadab Khan 2/16) by 33 runs (via DLS method)