Australia v Pakistan: Babar Azam rises to captaincy task as rain saves visitors' blushes in first T20I

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An 11th T20I half-century for Babar Azam.

Rain came to Pakistan’s rescue in the first T20I against Australia in Sydney with the hosts well placed to secure a win before persistent showers called off play.

Having been set a revised target of 119 to win in 15 overs, the hosts were coasting at 41-0 after just three overs but, unfortunately for them, rain thwarted their hopes of gaining a sixth-straight win in the format.

The game marked Babar Azam’s captaincy debut for Pakistan and the right-hander will have learned plenty about his side, despite rain curtailing the clash. The right-hander was in the thick of things himself, with his half-century helping the visitors recover from a rocky start before they eventually posted 107-5 in 15 overs.

Babar’s impressive captaincy bow was among the takeaways for Pakistan despite it being a brief affair at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground.

Fakhar’s horrendous T20 runs continues

No hiding place for Fakhar.

No hiding place for Fakhar.

Fakhar Zaman has been misfiring in the T20 format for some time now and there was no respite for the Pakistan opener in Sydney as well, as he fell to a first-ball dismissal.

It was the second golden-duck in a row in the format for the left-hander, who bagged a first-ball dismissal against Sri Lanka in the third T20I recently. On Sunday, Fakhar drove Mitchell Starc’s second delivery straight into the hands of Steve Smith at backward point to hand Australia a roaring start with the ball.

With his latest display taken into account, the Pakistan man has now scored only 108 runs in his last 11 T20I innings. The clock is definitely ticking down on Fakhar, in the T20 format at least, with other talented openers like Abid Ali waiting for a chance on the sidelines.

It will be interesting to see if the team management still continues to back him after what was another rash dismissal.

Babar rises to captaincy task

Fakhar’s early dismissal was followed by another one with Haris Sohail departing for just four runs. Those two early blows set Pakistan back at 11-2, but their hopes were resurrected by an excellent innings from their main man – Babar Azam.

The 25-year-old rose to the task on his Pakistan captaincy debut as he worked his way to a fluent half-century. The No1 ranked T20I batsman brought up his 11th fifty in the format in what was just his 34th innings to help his side get back into the game at the SCG.

Mohammad Rizwan struggled to force the issue at the other end, but Babar was batting on a completely different pitch in an unbeaten knock that contained two sixes and five boundaries. Unfortunately for Babar and Pakistan, rain played spoilsport just when they thought they had set themselves up for a big finish.

The rain forced the players off the pitch in the 13th over of the Pakistan innings and there were just 14 balls more to face for the visitors after the interruption reduced the match to a 15-over game.

Irfan expensive on comeback as rain saves Pak blushes

A comeback to forget for Irfan.

A comeback to forget for Irfan.

With Australia set a revised, but still modest, target of 119 to win, Pakistan’s bowlers had their task cut out in front of themselves. However, big man Mohammad Irfan proving to be highly expensive on his international comeback to set them back even further.

The tall pacer’s second over turned out to be a disastrous one with Australia skipper Aaron Finch taking full toll. 26 runs came in total in that Irfan over with Finch striking two sixes and as many boundaries, with a front-foot no-ball only exacerbating matters for the Pakistan fast bowler.

It was Irfan’s first Pakistan appearance in over 43 months and the pacer has done himself no favours in the brief window that was available to him on Sunday. He will be 38 by the time the 2020 T20 World Cup rolls around and the team management need to really be sure if he is the right man to persist with.

There is no dearth of young pace options for Pakistan, as the call-up to as many as four teenagers in the touring squad has shown. As such, Irfan’s international recall out of the cold does seem to defy logic.

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