DUBLIN: After being upset in the T20 series opener, Pakistan will be desperately looking to bounce back against Ireland in the second match here on Sunday with next month’s World Cup on the radar.

Babar Azam and his men received an early shock on the tour at Castle Avenue in Dublin on Friday when Ireland recorded their maiden T20 win against the green-shirts who could not defend a solid-looking 182-5 after being put in to bat first.

The five-wicket jolt must serve as an eye-opener for the tourists who will need to raise their game in every department today at the same venue to keep the three-match series alive. Pakistan after the ongoing series in Ireland are scheduled to travel to England for a four-match T20 series later this month before embarking upon the World Cup slated to be staged in West Indies and the US from June 1-29.

Talking at the post-match ceremony late on Friday, Babar said lack of execution in fielding and bowling proved costly for his team adding they were also some runs short.

“We didn’t start well in the first six overs, the pitch was a bit two-paced and had some bounce. Later we recovered well and posted 182 but I think 190 was a par score [here],” Babar, who top-scored for Pakistan in the game with a 43-ball 57, said. Opener Saim Ayub (45 off 29) and middle-order batter Iftikhar Ahmed (37 not out off 15) were the other prominent scorers for Pakistan.

Experienced Ireland opener Andy Balbirnie cracked 77 off 55 with the help of 10 fours and a couple of maximums as the hosts overhauled the target with a ball to spare. Though Balbirnie was cleaned up by pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi in the 19th over with Ireland at 167-5, the right-hander had done enough for his team to surpass their opponents in the end.

“But I think we lost due to bowling and fielding. We didn’t execute our plans and had some sloppy lapses in the field which cost us,” the skipper added.

Pace spearhead Mohammad Amir, who could not play the series opener after arriving in Ireland late due to visa issues, is duly expected to find a place in Pakistan’s playing XI in the second match.

Speaking after the first T20, Ireland skipper Paul Stirling while commenting on his decision to field first said that Pakistan had the ‘flattest pitches’ in the world.

“We are absolutely delighted. We wanted to start the summer off well and it was almost a perfect day for us. When you come here, especially from Pakistan, the flattest pitches in the world, ask them to bat first and see what they can get. We were happy to chase 180,” stated Stirling.

He further lauded Balbirnie for his match-winning half-century, which earned him the Player of the Match award.

“Brilliant knock from Balbirnie, he got through the powerplay and picked up the pace later. It was a fantastic knock. We have had great games here especially against Pakistan. Absolutely delighted to get over the line,” Stirling said.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2024

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