Buoyant Pakistan look to clinch series against WI in second ODI

Buoyant Pakistan look to clinch series against WI in second ODI

MULTAN: In a heartwarming moment after Pakistan won the opening One-day International against the West Indies in the early hours of Thursday morning, captain Babar Azam generously handed his man-of-the-match award to Khushdil Shah whose power-hitting at the end helped the hosts to a five-wicket victory.

Babar cracked his third consecutive century in ODIs to put his side on track for victory but it was Khushdil’s 23-ball 41 not out which proved crucial in the end as Pakistan hauled down the target of 306 with four balls to spare.

It means Pakistan go into Friday’s second ODI with a chance of wrapping up a series win with victory. However, going by the first game, it won’t be easy for Pakistan.

If the intense heat in Multan wasn’t enough, Babar admitted that the pitch wasn’t easy to bat on.

“The wicket was a little double-paced and wasn’t that easy,” he said after the match. “There was heat but that is not an excuse. Cricket is changing. We have to plan and play with a lot of intensity.”

Intensity will be crucial with the series carrying points in the ODI Super League, a qualification process for 2023 World Cup to be hosted by India.

And Pakistan will go into the second match boosted by the way Khushdil closed Wednesday’s opening game.

Pakistan were in a spot of bother with 50 needed off 32 balls before Khushdil hit four sixes — on all sides of the ground — to ensure his side got victory in the first international match in Multan after 14 years.

“For the last two years, I have been working on this,” Khushdil said as he accepted the man-of-the-match award. “I used to play a lot on the leg stump, started working more on the off stump. The two recent camps were really beneficial, where the coaches have worked hard on me, on my batting and singles/doubles. I was waiting for the balls to come to into my zone.”

Both the teams did not train on Thursday, perhaps mainly due to the extremely hot weather that tested the resolve of the players, umpires as well as the spectators on Wednesday.

The home side’s bowlers struggled to contain a largely inexperienced West Indies side in the first game.

Except for leg-spinner Shadab Khan (1-37) the remaining bowlers proved expensive as Shai Hope played a gem of a knock. Though fast bowler Haris Rauf claimed four wickets but conceded 77 runs.

Babar, who made two more personal records in Wednesday’s game — scoring three consecutive ODI centuries twice and completing 1,000 runs as captain in 13 matches against Virat Kohli’s 17 — would be hoping experienced fast bowler Hasan Ali regains form on Friday.

The 27-year-old pacer, who despite having Babar’s support has struggled to produce fine performance for quite a while, gave away 68 runs in 10 overs on Wednesday.

Therefore, if Pakistan want to bag the series on Friday, their bowlers will need to shape up.The West Indies, on the other hand, would seek to avoid defeat in today’s outing.

Apart from Hope and Shamarh Brooks (70), no other batter from top five clicked. But the real problem the Caribbean side will need to work on is bowling. After keeping a strong Pakistan batting under control for a major part of the innings on Wednesday, the West Indies bowlers faltered in the last five overs as Khushdil unleashed his power.

The West Indies, who won their first ODI at the Multan Cricket Stadium against Pakistan back in December 2006, would like to go one up.

Once a giant force in world cricket, the West Indies won their two other ODIs played at Multan’s Ibn-e-Qasim Bagh Stadium, in 1986 and 1990.

Published in Dawn,June 10th, 2022

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