THE Blue Label Telecoms Proteas took a major step forward in their bid for success at next year’s ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh when they completed a 2-0 series win with a six-run victory over Pakistan at Dubai on Friday.
This series victory moves the Proteas up to No. 3 on the ICC T20 team rankings and they will be hoping to continue chasing down first-placed Sri Lanka and second-placed India when they play two more matches against Pakistan at home next week.
What will have been particularly pleasing for Russell Domingo and his coaching team is the fact that the Proteas were put under sustained pressure in this match and still managed to come out on top.
The Proteas made 150/5 in their innings but Pakistan looked liked chasing it down successfully when they needed 39 for victory off 31 balls with six wickets in hand. But the match took a decisive turn when Imran Tahir and Wayne Parnell took three wickets between them off successive deliveries.
The odds still seemed to favour Pakistan when they needed 14 off the last two overs with Shahid Afridi on strike. But Dale Steyn once again responded with a superb over when it was needed, taking the wicket of Afridi with the help of an outstanding catch by Faf du Plessis and conceding only four runs.
It left Parnell to defend 10 runs in the final over which he was able to do quite comfortably against two tail-end batsmen.
Parnell (3/25) has become a major wicket-taking factor in this series while Imran (2/21) and Steyn (2/20) also made important contributions.
Quinton de Kock continued his excellent run of form, taking an excellent diving catch after he had earlier got the Proteas away to a good start by making a quick-fire 30 off 19 balls (6 fours).
The innings was built around the second-wicket partnership of 78 between Hashim Amla (48 off 41 balls, 3 fours and 2 sixes) and Du Plessis (58 not out off 48 balls, 1 four and 3 sixes).
Pakistan were handicapped by the loss of Mohammed Irfan after bowling only 10 balls and hardly being able to run between the wickets when he came into bat at No. 11.
As usual, Saeed Ajmal was their star performer with the ball, taking 3/25, while Sohail Tanvir made effective use of his slower delivery in the closing overs to finish with 2/21.