x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Brilliant Razzaq is Pakistan's hero

A brilliant century cameo of 109 runs from 71 balls with 10 sixes helps hosts out of the doldrums in the second ODI and level the series against Proteas.

Abu Dhabi // Abdul Razzaq finally put a smile back on the face of Pakistani cricket as the South African juggernaut was spectacularly derailed in the capital last night.

Dispirited, down on their luck Pakistan were given the kiss of life by the most extraordinary innings by the experienced all-rounder, one that his coach Waqar Younis called "a once in a decade knock".

It was finally worth 109 undefeated, made from 72 balls, studded by 10 sixes, most of which ended over the fences and in with the adoring masses on the grass banks at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

That it culminated in a one-wicket win on the penultimate ball of the second one-day international meant the fog of gloom over Pakistan cricket had temporarily lifted.

Somehow, they will now head to Dubai for the final three matches of their ODI series with a share of the spoils.

For so much of the game, Pakistan had appeared destined for the latest in what must feel like an endless string of defeats.

Even the umpires appeared to be against them. Just when they could really have done with a break, Younus Khan, their most experienced batsman, was sawn off in his prime.

He looked in princely touch as he raced to 18, with four fine boundaries, including the shot of the day, a picture-perfect cover-drive off Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

However, he fell soon after when he was trapped in front off Charl Langeveldt, even though a sizeable inside edge should have reprieved him.

When Misbah-ul-Haq went the same way, adjudged lbw to the slow left-arm spin of Robin Peterson, soon after, Pakistan's chase had apparently faltered.

Yet it is always unwise to count against Razzaq, for whom clearing the ropes seems ridiculously facile - even when his side are on the canvas and taking an eight count.

It was a marker of the gulf that had emerged between the two sides that South Africa started without their three most celebrated players, yet still remained comfortable favourites.

Graeme Smith missed out because of the blow he suffered to the knuckle he has broken twice in the past 18 months.

Jacques Kallis was struggling with the effects of a viral infection, and Dale Steyn was still not ready following his back injury.

But South Africa have a raft of young players itching to be noticed.

For the third time in four matches on tour, Colin Ingram was the star turn in the Proteas batting effort. His well-paced 100 was the second three-figure score of his nascent ODI career.

He probably thinks international cricket is easy. In truth, he has likely faced tougher opposition in South African domestic cricket than he has in five international games against Zimbabwe and a distracted Pakistan side.

It has been a time of plenty for the lefties in South Africa's middle-order. Over the same period, JP Duminy has made a century and a fifty, and averages 107.

The duo were also the mainstays of the two T20 wins that were the precursor for this series, and Duminy was back in on the act again, despite only being given a brief chance to shine. He made 54 in 43 balls nonetheless.

For so long, their eventual total of 286 for eight appeared comfortable, but Razzaq marshalled his side to a win which seemed impossible with 53 still to get with only 23 deliveries left.

pradley@thenational.ae