That is quite a record for them in a place like South Africa.
No one really expected Pakistan to win the first ODI. I mean our ODI team is worse than our test team, and with the way the test team was wiped out, it was really difficult to expect the ODI team to win anything.
If you took a look at the best betting exchanges, no one would have placed their money on Pakistan.
For starters, I felt Pakistan played the wrong XI.
I had wanted Shan Masood, Mohammad Amir, and Shaheen Afridi to be in the starting XI.
Leading up to the match a lot of people had said that they wanted Shan Masood to replace Imam Ul Haq at the top of the order.
That is not what I wanted.
Imam averages 60+ in ODIs and you can’t drop someone who has scored 4 centuries and 3 fifties in ODIs because of his failures in test cricket. Imam deserved his spot in the team and he also showed everyone why he should be Pakistan’s first choice opener in ODIs.
After this innings in the first ODI, Imam averages 64.6 and has scored 4 hundreds and 4 fifties in 17 innings!
What I had actually wanted was for Pakistan to go in with a top 6 comprising Fakhar, Imam, Shan, Babar, Hafeez, and Malik.
I feel Sarfraz at 6 is one position too high. He is not the batsman you want coming in at 50-4, which is something that happens to Pakistan quite often.
I know that means playing a bowler short but Hafeez, Malik, and Fakhar should be able to provide 10 overs among them. Moreover in a place like South Africa, and England (during the WC later in the year), even Shan Masood can turn his arm over for a few overs.
With the above mentioned top 6, followed by Sarfraz, Shadab, Faheem and any two pacers out of Amir, Hasan, Shaheen, Usman is a solid line up in my opinion.
The fact that Pakistan won the first ODI with what was arguably not their best XI is quite heartening.
The bowlers did a tremendous job restricting South Africa to only 266. They looked set for a 300 plus total but never really accelerated. It was a really odd scoreline seeing 266-2 on the board.
Despite that, no one really thought Pakistan could chase 266.
But Imam and Fakhar had different thoughts.
They gave Pakistan a solid start and when Fakhar departed after a quick 25, Babar Azam took over like he does every time he bats in colored clothing.
Imam held the innings together with a 45 run opening partnership, 94-run partnership with Babar, and a 46-run partnership with Hafeez.
Imam has scored 4 ODI centuries, but this 86 was his best ODI innings in my opinion.
After Imam left, it was all about Mohammad Hafeez. He was just sublime.
Dale Steyn missing from the line up probably helped, but after beginning slowly, Hafeez just owned the game and never made it feel like Pakistan will not get there.
It was great to see Pakistan win something on this tour after the embarrassing test losses, and it was heartening to see Pakistan win against a top team in ODIs, a format in which they have struggled heavily in recent times.
With 2019 being the World Cup year, it is a fantastic start for Pakistan’s ODI team.
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