Tuesday, 30 November 2021

3rd ODI: Babar, Sharjeel helps Pakistan reach 263

PERTH: Babar Azam and Sharjeel Khan scored half-centuries to help Pakistan to a competitive total in the third ODI in Perth, but Australia struck regularly enough to ensure their target remained a very gettable one. Azam top scored with 84 as Pakistan reached 7 for 263 after having been sent in to bat by Steven Smith, who at the toss spoke with confidence about his team’s chasing ability at the WACA. Last summer, Australia hunted down a target of 310 against India at the same venue, a pursuit that was centered around twin centuries from Smith and George Bailey. On that occasion, Rohit Sharma’s remarkable unbeaten 171 had lit up the first half of the match; by comparison, neither of the Pakistanis who reached fifty were able to turn starts into hundreds. In the absence of Mitchell Starc, who was being rested, Josh Hazlewood was outstanding and finished with 3 for 32 from his 10 overs, including the key wickets of Azam and Umar Akmal within the final eight overs. Those breakthroughs halted Pakistan’s momentum, and the lower order was able to add only 21 in the final five overs. It was a disappointing finish for Pakistan, who at the 40-over mark had an excellent platform of 4 for 213 from which to build. But Azam pulled Hazlewood and was brilliantly caught at deep midwicket by a diving Peter Handscomb, on debut. In Hazlewood’s next over, Akmal gloved a bouncer through to Matthew Wade for 39.

Another stunning catch in the next over robbed Pakistan of Imad Wasim; on 9, he tried to thump Pat Cummins over the infield but Travis Head, running with the flight of the ball from mid-off, took a superb diving catch. Earlier, Head had picked up 2 for 65 from his 10 overs of part-time offspin; for the third game in the series, Glenn Maxwell’s bowling was not used at all. The innings started briskly for Pakistan when Sharjeel plundered 20 runs off the fourth over, bowled by the raw fast bowler Billy Stanlake. A six was pulled imperiously over midwicket and was followed by three consecutive fours, which left Stanlake with 2-0-27-0 in his second ODI. But Hazlewood struck with the very next delivery when he trapped Mohammad Hafeez lbw for 4. Sharjeel again picked off three consecutive boundaries later in his innings, this time off Head, but next ball chopped on for 50 from 47 deliveries to give Head the first of his wickets. Asad Shafiq also fell to Head on 5 when he advanced and sent a thick edge to short third man, but Azam then found a willing ally and put on 63 with Shoaib Malik for the fourth wicket. But on 39, Malik became the first international wicket for Stanlake when he edged behind, and Azam was joined by his cousin, Akmal. They combined for a 60-run stand that should have been terminated earlier, when Akmal danced down the pitch to Head and missed an agricultural heave, but Wade failed to glove the ball and missed a straightforward stumping. Azam was the key for Pakistan. Although he struck only four fours and one six in his 100-ball stay, he built a solid platform and scored more in this innings alone than he did in the entire Test series against Australia. Along the way, Azam also joined Viv Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Quinton de Kock in reaching 1000 ODI runs in 21 innings, the all-time record for all comers.

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