Babar, Shaheen excel as Pakistan seal Ireland series

Published May 15, 2024
PAKISTAN captain Babar Azam plays a shot during the third Twenty20 International against Ireland at the Castle Avenue Cricket Ground on Tuesday.—courtesy Sportsfile
PAKISTAN captain Babar Azam plays a shot during the third Twenty20 International against Ireland at the Castle Avenue Cricket Ground on Tuesday.—courtesy Sportsfile

DUBLIN: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam and his short-term predecessor Shaheen Shah Afridi came together to outclass Ireland by six wickets in the third and final Twenty20 International at Castle Avenue on Tuesday and seal the series 2-1.

While Shaheen, despite his struggles in the first two matches of the series, produced a clinical bowling show to restrict the hosts to 178-7, Babar displayed uncharacteristic aggression to deny even a sniff to Ireland.

Thanks to his 75 off 42, which featured five sixes and six fours, and Mohammad Rizwan’s second consecutive half-century, the batter scoring 56 off 38 with the help of four fours and three sixes, Pakistan chased down the target with three overs to spare.

The win boosted Pakistan’s momentum ahead of their four-match T20I series against England — which starts on May 22 — and more importantly before the upcoming T20 World Cup, which is set to be held in the United States and the West Indies next month.

Pakistan lost Saim Ayub early on but a diminutive Rizwan ensured they posted 60-1 in the powerplay. As first-drop Babar looked on from the other end, Rizwan showed his prowess through the leg side with two fours and a six off Graham Hume before continuing to show his class against Craig Young as he launched the pacer for two maximums and a four in the next over.

Babar also got going with two fours off Young and was gifted a second life when George Dockrell dropped a chance in the deep with Pakistan posting 92-1 at halfway stage, by which Rizwan had also brought up his second-consecutive fifty.

The Pakistan skipper’s intent, however, was clear. He tonked Curtis Campher’s spin straight down the ground for his first six in the next over and followed it up with two more boundaries.

Babar showed he meant business, when he launched spinner Ben White for four sixes — three consecutive — in the 14th over, bringing up his fifty in 31 balls.

The right-hander clubbed the ball thrice over the leg-side boundary after smoking white down the ground for the first. Rizwan, however, lost his wicket to Mark Adair’s brilliant yorker in the next over while Babar followed him as he holed Young out to Campher in the deep.

The incoming Azam Khan finished off the job with ease, hitting two sixes and a four in his six-ball 18 to take Pakistan over the line.

Earlier, Ireland failed to convert a flying start into a total that could bother Pakistan, thanks to a brilliant bowling show by visitors’ pace spearhead Shaheen.

The left-armer registered figures of 3-14 in his quota of four overs and lead the charge as the visitng side bounced back following Ireland’s early onslaught.

Despite Shaheen uprooting Ross Adair’s stumps in the third over, in which the pacer conceded only one run, Ireland easily managed 50 runs in the powerplay.

The runs during the first six overs mainly came when Hasan Ali bowled, giving away a six and two fours in the fourth to spoil Shaheen’s effort. The Pakistan pace spearhead, however, had been hit for two boundaries in the opening over, while Amir was also subjected to a few lusty blows.

The fireworks didn’t stop, as Andy Balbirnie and Lorcan Tucker relentlessly took on the Pakistan bowlers — Balbirnie ramping Hasan for a six over the ‘keeper’s head in the seventh over. Tucker, was equally destructive, bringing up his fifty in just 29 balls after hitting part-time spinner Saim’s off-spin for three boundaries as Ireland posted 95-1 by the halfway stage.

Barbirnie’s (35 off 26) stay was ended by Rizwan’s stunning catch at deep point, with the breakthrough coming under pacer Abbas Afridi’s name.

Tucker targeted Hasan again in the 13th over, using immense power and poise to hit three boundaries in a row. The Ireland captain, however, was undone by Imad Wasim’s spin after adding 73 off 41 to the score.

The wicket put Ireland on the back foot, with no boundaries coming in the 14th and 15th overs and Shaheen dismissed Neil Rock as a result. Ireland’s struggles continued as Amir returned to bag George Dockrell’s wicket, conceding just five runs in the 17th over.

Although Tector punished Abbas (2-43) with two fours in the 18th over, Shaheen returned to restrict Ireland to just three runs in the penultimate over, which also saw Mark Adair depart.

SCOREBOARD

IRELAND:

A. Balbirnie c Rizwan b Abbas 35

R. Adair b Shaheen 7

L. Tucker c Saim b Imad 73

H. Tector not out 30

N. Rock c Babar b Shaheen 4

G. Dockrell c&b Amir 6

C. Campher c Shaheen b Abbas 1

M. Adair c Amir b Shaheen 1

G. Hume not out 10

EXTRAS (B-2, LB-5, W-4) 11

TOTAL (for seven wickets, 20 overs) 178

DID NOT BAT: Craig Young, Ben White

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-15 (R. Adair), 2-100 (Balbirnie), 3-132 (Tucker), 4-137 (Rock), 5-150 (Dockrell), 6-153 (Campher), 7-164 (M. Adair)

BOWLING: Shaheen 4-0-14-3, Amir 4-0-32-1 (3w), Hasan 3-0-42-0, Abbas 4-0-43-2, Saim 2-0-17-0, Imad 3-0-23-1 (1w)

PAKISTAN:

Saim Ayub c Dockrell b M. Adair 14

Mohammad Rizwan b M. Adair 56

Babar Azam c Campher b Young 75

Azam Khan not out 18

Iftikhar Ahmed c Campher b M. Adair 5

Imad Wasim not out 1

EXTRAS (W-12) 12

TOTAL (for four wickets, 17 overs) 181

DID NOT BAT: Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hasan Ali, Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-16 (Saim), 2-155 (Rizwan), 3-158 (Babar), 4-167 (Iftikhar)

BOWLING: M. Adair 4-0-28-3 (3w), Hume 2-0-26-0, Young 4-0-49-1 (2w), Campher 3-0-31-0 (2w), White 3-0-42-0 (1w), Dockrell 1-0-5-0

RESULT: Pakistan won the match by six wickets.

SERIES: Pakistan won the three-match series 2-1.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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