LAHORE: It was out of Pakistan’s hands as opener Imam-ul-Haq walked towards the pavilion dejected after posting his eighth One-day International hundred.
With the required run rate soaring at 10 by the end of the 39th over, a collapse waited for the hosts, and that’s exactly what happened after a slower one by Nathan Ellis rattled Imam’s exposed stumps.
Australia took 38 balls to finish the job as Pakistan fell 88 runs short in reply to the tourists’ 313 in the first ODI here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.
Scoring 103 off 96 (six fours and three sixes) Imam had done well to carry Pakistan to a point from where an onslaught towards the target could be launched, but may be not well enough as his Australian counterpart Travis Head, who also scored a ton, a way quicker one, after Aaron Finch’s were put in to bat by Pakistan.
What Imam also lacked was support from the other end as Australian spinners thrived on a slow pitch. Other than Pakistan skipper Babar Azam (57 off 72), who put up a 96-run partnership for the second wicket with Imam, no other batter spent enough time on the crease with the left-hander.
Babar arrived at the crease following opener Fakhar Zaman’s (18 off 18) early dismissal, and the reigning ICC ODI cricketer of the year reached 4,000 runs in the format off his third boundary.
The right-hander hit three more classy boundaries in the next 13 overs before misjudging a fuller delivery by leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson and finding himself trapped lbw in front of the middle stump before wasting a review.
With Pakistan at 120-1, the asking rate was nearly seven and a half and Imam, settled at 45, knew he had to up the ante. The 26-year-old took only three more balls to show he had the intent to do so when he launched Swepson over wide long-on for a six to bring up his 50.
Before Imam could increase more momentum, Pakistan two overs later lost Saud Shakeel, who came in at number four, to a soft dismissal off Head’s off-spin. Three overs later, Mohammad Rizwan followed as Adam Zampa (4-38) opened up his account for the day, making the wicket-keeper/batter sweep it into the hands of his Australian counterpart Alex Carey.
Imam kept scoring boundaries despite seeing all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed fail on the other end as well and took only 35 balls to reach the second half of his century by the 38th over, six balls before Ellis cleaned him up and Zampa wrapped up Pakistan’s tail.
“We let them score too many runs in the first ten overs,” Babar said after the match.
“We started poorly and then gave away too many runs at the death.
“While Imam and I were batting, we felt we had the chase under control but then lost wickets in clumps and couldn’t recover.”
While Imam’s effort was commendable, he would have wished it was as good as that of Head, who marked his return to one-day cricket with a blistering 72-ball 101 — his second ODI hundred — while opener Ben McDermott hit 55 from 70 balls.
Playing his first ODI since November 2018, Head plundered the Pakistan bowlers for 12 fours and three sixes, combining for 110 runs with opening partner and captain Aaron Finch (23).
Finch fell when he edged a sharp leg-spinner from debutant Zahid Mahmood to Rizwan behind the wickets.
Head brought up his century off only 70 balls when he took a single off Iftikhar’s off-spin, only to throw his wicket away five balls later as he miscued another big-hitting attempt for Khushdil Shah to take a comfortable catch at long-off half way through the innings.
With their scoring rate slowed down, Australia reached 209-2 in the 33rd over and from that point, Pakistan pulled back with three wickets for just 21 runs in the space of 39 balls, dismissing McDermott, Marnus Labuschagne (25) and Alex Carey (four).
McDermott was run out when he tried to take a third off Khushdil when it was not on while Labushagne holed out Khushdil to Saud Shakeel at long-off before Carey was cleaned up by Zahid in the 39th over.
Australia were 232-5 with 10 overs to go with all-rounder Cameron Green and Marcus Stoinis at the crease. The pair took their time to settle in as Pakistan kept it tight. But Australia managed to add 50 runs in the last five overs, thanks to cameos from Stoinis (26) — who was bowled by a skidding full length delivery by pacer Haris Rauf in the 47th over — and Sean Abbot (14).
Green ended up scoring an unbeaten 40 runs off 30 balls which included three boundaries and a six. For Pakistan, Haris took 2-44 and Zahid finished with figures of 2-59.
“Nice to get a look at the top, get an opportunity and take it. I felt like we set the platform really well,” said Head, who also registered 2-35 with ball.
“Finchy and I, so we knew that with the dew coming in it may be tough to bowl later in the innings.
“So runs at the top against the new ball were going to be crucial and it was nice to play a role.”
Australia, already without key players David Warner, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc for various reasons, were further depleted after spinner Ashton Agar tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday.
T. Head c Khushdil b Iftikhar 101
A. Finch c Rizwan b Zahid 23
B. McDermott run out 55
M. Labuschagne c Saud b Khushdil 25
M. Stoinis b Haris 26
A. Carey b Zahid 4
C. Green not out 40
S. Abbott b Haris 14
N. Ellis not out 3
EXTRAS (LB-9, W-13) 22
TOTAL (for seven wkts, 50 overs) 313
DID NOT BAT: A. Zampa, M. Swepson
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-110 (Finch), 2-171 (Head), 3-209 (McDermott), 4-224 (Labuschagne), 5-230 (Carey), 6-277 (Stoinis), 7-296 (Abbott)
BOWLING: Hasan 8-0-56-0 (5w); Wasim 8-0-59-0 (2w); Haris 8-0-44-2 (6w); Zahid 10-0-59-2; Iftikhar 6-0-36-1; Khushdil 10-0-50-1
Fakhar Zaman c Head b Abbott 18
Imam-ul-Haq b Ellis 103
Babar Azam lbw b Swepson 57
Saud Shakeel c Labuschagne b Head 3
Mohammad Rizwan c Carey b Zampa 10
Iftikhar Ahmed c Abbott b Head 2
Khushdil Shah c Carey b Zampa 19
Hasan Ali b Zampa 2
Mohammad Wasim b Zampa 0
Haris Rauf c Green b Swepson 7
Zahid Mahmood not out 0
EXTRAS (NB-1, W-3) 4
TOTAL (all out, 45.2 overs) 225
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-24 (Fakhar), 2-120 (Babar), 3-132 (Saud), 4-151 (Rizwan), 5-166 (Iftikhar), 6-204 (Imam), 7-213 (Hasan), 8-213 (Wasim), 9-217 (Khushdil)
BOWLING: Abbott 7-0-36-1; Green 3-0-18-0; Zampa 10-0-38-4 (2w); Ellis 8-0-36-1 (1nb, 1w); Swepson 8.2-0-53-2; Stoinis 3-0-9-0; Head 6-0-35-2
RESULT: Australia win by 88 runs.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Travis Head
SERIES: Australia lead three-match series 1-0.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2022