LAHORE: Outclassed in the first One-day International by the touring Australia, Pakistan bounced back in the second in style.

The hosts made history, chasing down a record 349-run target, thanks to match-winning knocks by skipper Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq.

When the teams walk on to the pitch at the Gaddafi Stadium here on Saturday for the third ODI, the decider, a mouth-watering contest will be on the cards.

The playing surface at the historic venue has predominantly favoured batters with more than 300 runs being scored in the three out of four innings played in the series.

The first ODI, however, saw Pakistan struggle to score freely, especially against the Australian spinners who made the most of the skidding ball while dew fell on the turf.

In the second game, the dew factor was not as heavily involved, but what mattered more was Pakistan’s approach towards chasing the mammoth target after their bowlers were plundered all over the ground.

Openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam set up the foundation before Babar took the match to a stage from where Khushdil Shah’s eventual cameo helped Pakistan go over the line.

With the pitch not expected to change much for the ultimate face-off between Babar and his Australian counterpart Aaron Finch, the onus will be on both teams’ batters to put up their best show.

However, the role of fielders will be the differentiating factor between both teams, at least according to Babar.

“It’s not over yet,” the Pakistan captain said in the post-match team talk.

“In the next match we’ve to play with more focus and bat and bowl even better and most importantly we’ve to field well.

“If we field well, we’ll take the match away from them.”

A pumped up Babar also called onto his team-mates to improve on their performances in the first two games and keep belief.

“We did not win as individuals, we won as a team,” said the 27-year-old.

“Everyone has contributed; bowlers, fielders and batters.

“What we’ve done good, we’ve to make it better, we all know where we can improve and we’ve to think about it.

“The way we’ve kept belief that we can win, we have to continue that.”

Winning the match and the series will not only help Pakistan avenge Australia’s 1-0 triumph in the recently-concluded Test series as they tour the country after 24 years, but also help Babar’s men to improve their reputation against the visitors. Pakistan’s win in the second ODI was their first in 11 matches against Australia.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2022

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