Pakistan 157 for 8 (Azam 51, Rizwan 46, Holder 4-26) beat West Indies 150 for 4 (Pooran 62*, Hafeez 1-6) by seven runs
Rizwan, Babar show their class
With Sharjeel Khan falling for a promising 16-ball 20, it was well inside the powerplay that Pakistan’s two most prolific batters of the last year got together. Initially, Azam was the slower one between the two as Rizwan punished Akeal Hosein for two sixes and followed it up with a four off Bravo.
Azam then found two boundaries off Romario Shepherd – playing instead of Andre Russell – through the leg side to get his day going, and despite accumulating a few dots thereafter, he found a way to break the rut. Hayden Walsh’s googly was pulled for six, his half-tracker was cut for four, and in the space of a few overs, Azam had raced away to 41 in 33 balls.
Pakistan collapse after rain
The rain break was short, and when Pakistan returned with four overs to go with the score 134 for 2, there was a genuine chance for them to aim for over 180. But Azam fell right then, out caught behind in a contentious decision where it appeared the bat may have hit the ground – and not the ball – but the umpire deemed it fair.
Bravo then picked up Hafeez and Fakhar Zaman in quick succession, followed by Holder removing Hasan Ali and Sohaib Maqsood, with Shepherd taking a one-handed stunner by the boundary line. Eventually, Pakistan added just 23 in their last 24 balls to reach 157.
A lesson from the professor
With right-hander Andre Fletcher taking strike in the chase, it was Hafeez’s spin that kicked off the proceedings. He struck second ball when Fletcher looked to defend a delivery that he had expected would turn in, leaving the channel outside off vacant. The ball zipped through, and knocked the off stump back, making his return to the XI – in place of the injured Lendl Simmons – somewhat underwhelming.
That spin would be a dominant factor in the chase, and Hafeez would continue to bowl in the powerplay against the two left-handers Evin Lewis and No. 3 Chris Gayle, was established early. Hafeez was mostly full on off and middle stump, and with the assistance of some sharp work from the infielders, he eked out 13 dot balls in his first spell of three overs where he conceded just five runs, including one maiden.
Later, when Pooran came in as the new batter in the 12th over, Hafeez was brought back against the left-hander, where he kept the pressure up with five dots and one single. In all, his four-over spell went for only six runs and earned him a wicket – his most economical T20I spell ever.
Lewis cramps up at a crucial time
Having seen Fletcher and Gayle fall without making much impact in a 31-run powerplay, Lewis took the conservative route early on. When Usman Qadir tossed it up early in his spell, Lewis went for the slog sweep for six that helped break his shackles. Soon after, Lewis had deposited fast bowler Mohammad Wasim’s slower ball for six over long off, and in Shimron Hetmyer’s company it seemed that the asking rate – that was starting to touch ten – would be brought down.
However, Hetmyer was struggling with his timing, and scoring at a strike rate of just around 100. He had to join Lewis in finding those big shots, and lost his middle stump trying to hit Wasim over cow corner, out for an 18-ball 17.
With Pooran, the new batter at No. 5, only starting to get his eyes in, West Indies suffered another setback as Lewis was grounded by a stomach cramp on 35, and had to leave the field retired hurt with the equation reading 82 required off 36.
Pollard walked in as Lewis walked out, and the first thing he did with Pooran was see Shadab Khan’s final over out. After that, Pollard observed from the non-striker’s end as Pooran tore into a wayward 16th over that exposed the teenager’s inexperience.
More such overs were needed if West Indies were to swing the result in their favour. However, only one of the batters could make adequate contact between bat and ball. While Pooran smashed Hasan for three sixes in the 17th and 19th overs, and Shaheen Shah Afridi for back-to-back fours in the 18th, Pollard kept finding the fielders.
The last of those sixes off Hasan brought up Pooran’s fifty, in 28 balls, but only 11 from Pollard’s first 12 balls meant West Indies needed 20 off the final six deliveries. Shaheen conceded just two off the first four, and took Pollard’s wicket, and that meant he had done enough to seal Pakistan’s victory, though he got hit by Pooran for four and six off the game’s last two deliveries.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx
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