ICC World Cup: Middle-order fires Pakistan to 270 against South Africa

Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel scored fifties

babar-azam-pti Pakistan's Babar Azam in action against South Africa | PTI

Babar Azam scored yet another World Cup fifty. And yet again, he failed to build on it and departed soon afterwards. 

None of the Pakistan middle-order failed against a tricky combination of seam and spin South African attack in Chennai on Friday. After openers Abdullah Shafique (9 off 17) and Imam-ul-Haq (12 off 18) fell cheaply, the next six Pak batters starting from Babar made notable contributions to take Pakistan to 270 in 46.4 overs. Apart from Babar who faced 65 deliveries en route to his 50, Pak batters including top-scorer Saud Shakeel (52 off 52) were in a mood to attack. 

For South Africa, Tabriz Shamsi picked four wickets while Marco Jansen got three.

But Pakistan couldn't build enough partnerships and also faltered in the back end to be dismissed in 46.4 overs after opting to bat.

Left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who was playing only his second game, shone with figures of four for 60, while Marco Jansen (3/43) was superb with the new ball, and Gerald Coetzee (2/42) also snapped two.

It all began with a maiden over from Jansen, who accounted for both the openers -- Abdullah Shafique (9) and Imam-ul-Haq (12) as Pakistan slipped to 38 for 2 in the seventh over.

It could have been third down for Pakistan in the same over had Jansen hold on to a caught and bowled chance for Mohammad Rizwan.

Rizwan started on an aggressive note, hitting a six off spinner Keshav Maharaj and constructing a 48-run partnership with Babar (50).

However, the lease of life that Jansen offered him did not last long, as in the 16th over, speedster Coetzee sent him back to the pavilion after being caught behind, with the score reading 86 for three.

While Coetzee continued to suppress Pakistan's scoring rate, they brought up their 100 by the 20th over.

The pair of Babar and Iftikhar Ahmed (21) added 43 for the fourth wicket before the latter became the fourth man to be dismissed, holing out to Heinrich Klaasen off Shamsi in the 26th.

In the meantime, Babar brought up his 31st ODI half-century but right after the landmark, he fell prey to Shamsi in the 28th after an attempted sweep saw the ball take the faintest of nicks before being gloved by Quinton de Kock.

Although initially given not out by the umpire, the Proteas opted for the review at the last moment and the decision went in their favour as Pakistan slumped to 141 for five.

Saud Shakeel and Shadab Khan (43) then joined hands and forged a much-needed partnership of 84 runs, bringing their innings back on track. 200 was up by the 37th over but Pakistan couldn't make use of the platform.

While Shadab mainly targeted Maharaj, it was Coetzee who got the better of him in the 40th after an attempted pull to mid-wicket saw him getting caught by Maharaj.

With ten more overs remaining, the Pakistani batters looked to go for shots to cross the 300-run mark.

It was a dream far too fetched for the Green Shirts, as they lost Shakeel at the 43rd over, followed by Shaheen Afridi (2) to slip to 259 for 8. Mohammad Nawaz (24) and Mohammad Wasim Jr (7) were the final men to fall. 

- With PTI inputs

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