Centurion - Mohammad Hafeez was the game changer for Pakistan, said losing skipper Faf du Plessis after South Africa suffered an embarrassing Twenty20 defeat on Sunday.
“The shorter the format, the bigger the chance that one person can change the game and Hafeez changed the game today,” Du Plessis said after Pakistan beat South Africa by 95 runs - in doing so dismissing the hosts for 100 - their lowest ever total in T20 cricket.
With the first match rained out in Durban on Friday night, Pakistan took the series 1-0 courtesy of Hafeez, who tore apart the South African attack.
VIDEO: SA v Pakistan, second T20, highlights
“We gave Hafeez too many options and he was scoring both sides of the wicket,” said Du Plessis.
“It was only in the 15th or 16th over, we bowled much better and managed to restrict them and get some wickets at the end. So that’s one positive we can take from the game.”
After a dismal Test series, Hafeez played an outstanding knock for his 86 off 51 balls.
His innings, which included nine fours and four sixes, came to an unfortunate end when his back foot slid onto his stumps and dislodged the bails.
Pakistan started with intent and had the run rate at over nine runs an over from the seventh over.
“We can learn from them the way they played the first eight overs,” Du Plessis said.
“They put the pressure on our bowlers and made the rest of the game much easier for themselves.”
Having beaten Pakistan 3-0 in the Test series, on wickets suited to the South African seam attack, it was a different matter in the T20.
“When it comes to playing on a wicket like this one - which was very close to being a road - their skills are better than ours and that’s another area where we want to learn from them.”
Pakistan’s opening pair of Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad set the pace with the latter smacking two sixes before he was run out on 46.
He faced 25 deliveries and also hit six fours.
The wicket brought Hafeez to the crease but it had no effect on the team’s momentum.
Hafeez reached his half-century off 30 balls and achieved his highest T20 score - his previous being 71 against Zimbabwe, in Harare.
Du Plessis had to call on his ‘death’ bowlers midway through the innings and said the only advice he gave his bowlers was not to panic.
“We’re building towards the next T20 World Cup so if it means experimenting with inexperienced players, then so be it.
“When Pakistan are on fire like they were today, they can put the best in the world under pressure and it was a learning curve for our young guys.”
Chasing 196, South Africa opened their innings with AB de Villiers and Henry Davids and tried to replicate the fast start made by the opposition.
“It’s the one thing that worked for us today. We know what AB can do in the middle order, so it was just a case of trying him upfront because he has the skill to hurt the bowling attack.”
De Villiers scored 36 off 22 balls, hitting four boundaries and two sixes, until he was castled by Mohammad Irfan.
Kleinveldt was the only other South African batsman to make a start as Umar Gul took five wickets for six runs off 2.2 overs. And, after his masterful batting, Hafeez took three for 25 with the ball.
“It was a great feeling to walk into a happy dressing-room,” said Hafeez after the match.
“I’ve missed it for the last 42 days and I just hope we can keep up this good feeling for the one-day series.
He said during the Test series he always felt he was batting well in the nets, but got out to some good balls.
“I have to thank the coaches, who always remained positive and lifted my morale. I always try and go out there and express myself and today I took my chances because the pressure is on the bowlers in the T20 format.”