Opener Babar Azam missed a maiden hundred by three runs as Pakistan trounced the West Indies by 82 runs in the second Twenty20 international in Karachi on Monday, taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Babar cracked 13 fours and a six in his 58-ball innings, reaching 97 not out to guide Pakistan to their highest-ever T20 total of 205-3 in 20 overs after Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and decided to bat first at the National Stadium.
Paceman Mohammad Amir took 3-22 as the West Indies were dismissed for 123 in 19.2 overs, faring much better than their 60 all out in the first match which they lost by 143 runs – the second-biggest margin of defeat in T20 internationals.
The third match is on Tuesday, also in Karachi.
The West Indies showed more resistance on Monday as Chadwick Walton hit two sixes and four boundaries during his 29-ball 40 and added 39 for the second wicket with the experienced Marlon Samuels who made 12.
But leg spinner Shadab Khan (2-23) dismissed both in the space of seven runs to check the West Indian chase before Hussain Talat mopped up the tail with 2-12 in just 1.2 overs.
Earlier, Babar set Pakistan on course for a fourth successive 180-plus total – the first team to achieve the feat in T20s.
The opener put on 119 for the second wicket with Talat, who notched a 41-ball 63 with eight boundaries and a six.
Pakistan lost opener Fakhar Zaman for six but Babar and Talat batted solidly as the West Indies bowlers struggled again.
Asif Ali fell for 14 but Pakistan plundered 61 runs in the last five overs, with Shoaib Malik smashing two boundaries and a six in his seven-ball 17 not out.
Babar failed to reach his century, ending the innings three short of becoming only the second Pakistani batsman after Ahmed Shehzad to score a T20 hundred.
Shehzad achieved the feat against Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2014.
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and elected to bat first and his decision was vindicated as the hosts put runs on the board in their 20 overs.
Batting stalwart Babar Azam led the way for Pakistan with a sublime unbeaten 97 as they crossed the 200-run mark for the second day in a row. West Indies were bowled out for 123 as Pakistan won the match by 82 runs and took a 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Here, we analyse the performance of the Pakistan star in depth.
RUNS SCORED: 97
BALLS FACED: 58
Coming in to bat in the second over at the fall of Fakhar Zaman’s wicket, Azam took no time settling in as he toyed with the West Indies attack. The right-handed batsman formed a 119-run second wicket stand with Hussain Talat and remained unbeaten as he fell short of a maiden T20I ton by just three runs. He looked at ease throughout his stay, finding boundaries at will to fire Pakistan to their highest T20 score.
Unlike the first T20I where he threw away a good start, Azam made the most of an inexperienced West Indies bowling line-up. He found boundaries at regular intervals and rotated the strike effectively to keep Pakistan’s run-rate hovering around 10.
I’ve said this before, will reiterate, Babar Azam is a special batsman. Doesn’t go big unnecessarily, plays those traditional shots but plays with balance.
— Roha Nadeem (@RohaNadym) April 2, 2018
The 23-year-old hardly put a foot wrong in his innings, looking at home as the runs continued to flow off his bat. The only gripe, if any, is Azam was unable to get four runs off the last two deliveries of the innings to complete what would have been a glorious century.
GETS INTO HIS ZONE EARLY
The Pakistan man got into the groove early in his innings as he targeted Rayad Emrit in the fourth over of the day. He crashed three of the initial four deliveries to the boundary fence, setting the tone for both him and Pakistan.
Azam had raced away to 78 with a six off medium-pacer Kesrick Williams. The very next ball, he top edged a low full toss in perhaps his only false shot of the day. However, he was given a reprieve as Samuel Badree made a mess of the chance at square-leg.
MISSES TON BY A WHISKER
Going into the final over batting on 89, Azam moved into the nineties with a double off the first delivering before finding the fence off the next one. He could only find a single in the third delivery but Shoaib Malik made sure to get him back on strike for the penultimate delivery. With four runs to get off two balls for a dream century, Azam could only make one with the Karachi crowd up on its feet in anticipation.
— Rai M. Azlan (@Mussanaf) April 2, 2018
VERDICT – 9.5/10
This was an innings unlike any other we have previously seen from the Pakistan batsman in T20 cricket. He found his range instantly and then gave no respite to the bowlers for almost 18 overs of the match. A century would have been the icing on the cake for the batsman but take nothing away, it was one of the best innings by a Pakistan batsman in T20 cricket.
Babar Azam 53.15 is highest batting average in T20I!!
— Farhan Nisar (@farhanwrites) April 2, 2018
Pakistan, the world’s top-ranked T20 side, equalled their highest total in the format of 203-5 in 20 overs before bowling the West Indies out for their lowest-ever T20 total – 60 runs – in 13.4 overs.
The West Indies, missing their regular skipper Carlos Brathwaite and stars like Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, could not handle Pakistan’s varied bowling attack.
Only Marlon Samuels (18), Rayad Emrit (11) and Keemo Paul (10) reached double figures.
Pakistan’s margin of victory is the second-biggest in T20s, behind Sri Lanka’s 172-run win over Kenya in Johannesburg in 2007.
Previously, the hosts’ biggest victory in T20s was a 102-run win against Bangladesh in Karachi in 2008, after scoring 203-5.
Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz and Shoaib Malik got two wickets each.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed praised his team’s performance in the series-opener.
“I think we were excellent today,” said Ahmed. “We have an important match tomorrow and with another win we can seal the series win.”
The West Indies’ new T20 skipper Jason Mohammad blamed the defeat on poor batting.
“It was a tough day. We did well with the ball till the last two overs. It was a good wicket, but our shot execution wasn’t good,” said Mohammad, who fell for nought.
The West Indies’ previous lowest T20 total was 79-7 against Zimbabwe at Port of Spain in 2010.
Debutant Hussain Talat top-scored for Pakistan with a 37-ball 41, hitting a six and two boundaries. He added 75 for the third wicket with Sarfraz, who scored a 22-ball 38 with a six and four boundaries.
Opener Fakhar Zaman hit a 24-ball 39, while Shoaib Malik played a fiery knock of 37 not out, facing 14 deliveries and hitting two sixes and four boundaries.
The charge helped Pakistan get 66 runs in the last five overs.
Despite this being the first international match in Karachi – Pakistan’s largest city – only 18,000 people watched the match in the 33,000-capacity stadium.
But those present were in a celebratory mood.
“It’s something we’ve been trying to prove, that it’s safe to play here,” said Zehra Kazmi, a housewife.
Aftab Khan, a student, said he was hoping for more top-level cricket on Pakistani soil.
“I can’t express my feelings in words so we welcome all the players from the international cricket,” he said.
“They should come to Pakistan and play… because Pakistan is a very peaceful country.”