Shoaib Malik, the captain for Pakistan in the fourth ODI against South Africa in Johannesburg, came to know about the sudden change of plans only hours before the toss. Malik went onto lead his side to an emphatic eight-wicket win against the Proteas, who lost a pink-ODI for the first time ever. Malik had to take over after the ICC suspended Sarfraz Ahmed for four matches for misconduct during the second ODI.
“I got to know that I will be captaining when we got to the ground,” said Malik said after Pakistan’s win brought the series to 2-2 with one game to go.

“The decision [to suspend Sarfraz Ahmed for his racially charged remarks] came this morning. I am not aware about the other matters [regarding the incident]. I took over the charge just before the start of the game. My responsibility is to fulfil whatever my cricket board and team management demand from me.”

The change in captains didn’t bring down the morale of the Pakistan side and instead spurred them on such that they put in their most impressive performance on the tour.

Since the introduction of the pink-ODI in 2013, South Africa have not lost at the Wanderers. Pakistan needed to really turn the tables on them to get anything out of it and thankfully for them they peaked just before the decider on Wednesday.

“Of course, when a game slips away from your hand it frustrates you,” said Malik said off the rain-curtailed ODI at Centurion. “But, the goal should be to give your best shot and that’s what we had in our minds when we arrived at the ground today. I must highlight that the bowlers were exceptional and they set the tone. And then, the batsmen delivered.”

Along expected lines Pakistan bowled well. In the first 10 overs the hosts scored 32 and had lost an in-form Reeza Hendricks and Quinton de Kock. The Proteas then rebuilt with Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis’ century partnership before Malik, who won the toss and elected to field, brought in the spinners to do the damage.

That saw South Africa lose the rest of their wickets for less than 50 runs.

“We had seen a lot of rain the night before the match. The pitch was damp – which was in my mind,” he said.

“Winning the toss was an edge for us. Our pacers started off very well. But when Faf and Hashim bhai started playing convincingly, I thought of bringing on spinners since it was not a proper belter and they were bound to get some spin. And that’s what happened and they [our spinners] started to dictate terms from there. The wickets of Faf and Hashim bhai were the turning point of the match.”

“Usman [Khan] bhai was exceptional today. In fact, not only him, I must mention the names of Shaheen Shah and Mohammad Amir. Early wickets are key in this format. He [Usman] was struggling but the way he bowled today was exceptional. Even our two spinners. Of course, he was man of the match but in my opinion all five bowlers bowled exceptionally well.”

“Overall, it was an all-round performance which is pretty satisfying for our dressing room. It is not about performing in one department and lacking in other. If you perform in one department, you should keep up with the same pace in the others as well.”

Pakistan are on the cusp of winning their second bilateral series in South Africa. The last time they achieved this was 2013 under the leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq.

First Published: January 27, 2019, 10:32 PM IST