George Linde and Aiden Markram may not be first-choice white-ball players for the Proteas, but it was their brilliance in the early overs that enabled South Africa to thrash Pakistan by six wickets with six overs to spare and level their T20 series at the Wanderers on Monday.
Pakistan had won the toss and elected to bat, and the Proteas again opened the bowling with left-arm spinner George Linde. Mohammad Rizwan charged down the wicket to the first ball of the match, was nowhere near the pitch but went through with the hit over the top, Markram taking a well-judged steepler at deep mid-off.
With their nemesis getting out to the first ball, South Africa’s bowling suddenly clicked, the visitors being restricted to 140 for nine.
The other opener, Sharjeel Khan (8) fell in the same fashion, although he just stood in the crease and swiped, and Linde finished with career-best figures of three for 23 as he returned in the 11th over to have the dangerous Mohammad Hafeez caught behind for 32. Linde also took three catches in the outfield.
Markram, playing in just his fourth T20 International, destroyed the Pakistan bowling up front with consummate ease, hammering seven fours and three sixes off the 30 balls he faced, as he improved on his 51 off 32 deliveries in the first T20 over the weekend, by blazing 54 off 30 on Monday.
Although Markram’s dismissal, caught at long-on off leg-spinner Usman Qadir, left the Proteas needing less than a run-a-ball for victory, they had a bit of a wobble as they sipped to 92 for four in the 11th over. But captain Heinrich Klaasen (36 not out off 21 balls) and Linde (20 not out off 10 deliveries) had all the finishing power required as they added 49 off just 22 balls to race South Africa to a morale-boosting victory.
While Linde had been the best of the South African bowlers, fellow spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was again excellent, taking one for 22 in his four overs and left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks was also tight, conceding just 27 runs in his four overs.
Lizaad Williams bowled well at the death to take three wickets and even Sisanda Magala, who bowled a horror 12-ball first over littered with no-balls and wides, came back brilliantly. Having gone for 18 runs in his first over, he conceded just 14 runs in his next three overs, including only five in the last over of the innings.
Magala claimed the wicket of Pakistan’s kingpin Babar Azam, skidding a good ball through his attempted pull to bowl the captain for 50. South Africa did well to keep him quiet though, Babar taking 50 balls to score his runs.