The festival of cricket in Pakistan began on a happy note for the hosts as they defeated the World XI side in a one-sided encounter. It was a commanding performance by Sarfaraz Ahmed & Co. that treated the capacity crowd at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. The fans in the stands were treated to something they had been waiting for so long.
World XI’s skipper Faf du Plessis called the right side of the coin and invited the hosts to bat first. The opener Fakhar Zaman began with 2 fours off the first 2 balls to get the crowd going. But two balls later, thousands in the stands were silenced by Morne Morkel who sent back Zaman for 8. A boundary off the next ball by Babar Azam again brought a huge roar.
The Babar Azam show
Azam was striking the ball beautifully and kept the run-rate high. Ahmed Shehzad wasn’t as fluent but his partner ensured the score didn’t lag behind as Pakistan reached 49/1 after 6 overs. Azam kept going hard at the bowlers and found the boundaries on regular occasions. He brought up his fifty off just 33 balls in the 10th over as the score was powered to 85.
There was no way Azam was holding back and he kept collecting boundaries off every over. The 100-run partnership was up in the 13th over but Shehzad had contributed only 33 runs in that. The score reached 130/1 after 14 overs and a platform was set for the home side to get close to 200.
Just when Shehzad was shaping up for the big strokes, he was removed for 39 off 34 balls by Ben Cutting in the 15th over. In the very next over, the well-set Babar Azam also departed for 86 off 52 balls off the bowling of Imran Tahir. His knock included 10 fours and 2 sixes and he surely missed out on a hundred.
Shoaib Malik, who was in at No.4, ensured that the 2 quick wickets didn’t hamper the progress. He took a liking to Thisara Perera and struck him for a six and a four in the 18th over. The skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed failed to score big and was dismissed by Perera in the same over for 4.
Malik smashed 3 fours in the next over of Ben Cutting to take the total near 200. He once again hammered Perera out of the park in the last over but lost his wicket off the next ball for a quickfire 38 off 20. Imad Wasim struck a couple of sixes at the end to boost the score to a massive 197/5 at the end of 20 overs.
A good start spoiled by Raees
The World XI side got off to a solid start in the pursuit of the chase. The openers Hashim Amla and Tamim Iqbal went after the bowling and especially the former hit some delightful strokes. The score reached 39 without loss after 5 overs and the chase was on at that stage.
But the left-arm pacer Rumman Raees came into the attack and removed both the openers in the 6th over. Suddenly, the visitors were struggling at 48/2 with both the set batsmen back in the hut. It was time for the spinners to choke the runs and Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan didn’t let the opposition flourish.
The skipper Faf du Plessis and Tim Paine struggled to hit the boundaries and the breaks were applied on the scoring. The score barely moved to 68 at the halfway stage. Faf then came into the act and hammered Hasan Ali for 22 runs in the 12th over that consisted of 4 fours and a six.
But his stay at the crease was ended shortly by Shadab Khan in the 13th over for 29 off 18 balls. Tim Paine too went back to the pavilion in the very next over courtesy Sohail Khan for 25 off 25 balls. David Miller didn’t last long and was sent back by Shadab for 9 as the score moved to 124/5 after 15 overs and the hopes for the World XI looked bleak at that stage.
Sammy’s cameo went in vain
Thisara Perera brought some hopes with 3 fours in a row in the 16th over off Raees but the required run rate was too much to handle. Sohail Khan accounted for the wicket of Grant Elliot in the next over to further dent the chase. Hasan Ali bowled a terrific 18th over giving away just 3 runs that left the equation to 47 off 12 balls.
Darren Sammy slammed a couple of sixes in the penultimate over to keep the side in with a chance. Needing 34 off the last over, the Windian hit a six off the first ball but Hasan Ali came back strong to bowl perfect yorkers from then on. Ultimately, the visiting side fell short by 20 runs to hand Pakistan a lead of 1-0 with 2 matches to go.
World XI won the toss and opted to bowl first
Pakistan: 197/5 in 20 overs
Babar Azam 86, Ahmed Shehzad 39
Thisara Perera 51/2, Morne Morkel 32/1
World XI: 177/7 in 20 overs
Faf du Plessis 29, Darren Sammy 29*
Sohail Khan 28/2, Shadab Khan 33/2
Pakistan won by 20 runs
Player of the Match: Babar Azam