In-form wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan hit a maiden T20 international hundred as Pakistan edged out South Africa by three runs in a thrilling last-over finish to the series opener in Lahore on Thursday.
Needing 19 to win off the last over, Bjorn Fortuin (17 not out) and Dwaine Pretorius (15 not out) managed 15 as pacer Faheem Ashraf held his nerve to keep South Africa down to 166-6 in 20 overs.
Rizwan’s 64-ball 104 not out featured six boundaries and seven sixes — the most maximums by a Pakistan batsman in a T20I — to lift the hosts to 169-6.
He also ran out the tourists’ top-scorer Reeza Hendricks (54) in the 18th over.
Hendricks and Janneman Malan (44) had given the visitors a solid 53-run start by the seventh over, before leg-spinner Usman Qadir took two wickets in successive overs to derail South Africa.
South Africa’s most experienced batsman David Miller (six) and skipper Heinrich Klaasen (12) also failed to lift the tempo.
Hendricks’s fifth T20I fifty included eight boundaries and came off 42 balls, while Malan hit eight fours and a six off just 29 balls.
For Pakistan, Qadir took 2-21 and fast bowler Haris Rauf finished with 2-44.
Rizwan carried his bat through Pakistan’s innings.
Rizwan, who scored his maiden Test hundred in Pakistan’s second Test win in Rawalpindi earlier this week, added 68 for the second wicket with Haider Ali who made 21.
It lifted Pakistan — sent in to bat — from a disastrous start which saw skipper and star batsman Babar Azam run out off the second ball of the match for nought.
Azam hit a drive off spinner Fortuin and ran for a single but the bowler threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end with a direct hit.
“There was pressure as our best batsman had got run out so early,” said Rizwan, who scored 89 in Pakistan’s last T20, in New Zealand in December.
“I kept one end and since it was an important match I had to deliver and I am so happy that I scored a hundred.”
Rizwan held the innings together, changing gears in the 11th over when he hit three sixes off pacer Junior Dala to reach his fifty.
On his way to a hundred he was dropped twice on 83 and 96, but he smashed medium pacer Andile Phehlukwayo over the deep mid-wicket boundary for his seventh six to bring up the milestone.
Rizwan is only the second Pakistan batsmen to score a T20I century after Ahmed Shehzad, who achieved the feat in Dhaka against Bangladesh in the World T20 seven years ago.
Klaasen said South Africa were disappointed to come up just shy.
“It was a very good game but we are disappointed with the result. Hopefully we fight hard and come back in the next game,” said Klaasen.
Phehlukwayo was the best South Africa bowler with 2-33.
The remaining two matches will be played on Saturday and Sunday, also in Lahore, as the teams continue their preparations for the T20 World Cup later this year in India.