LAHORE: Talented right-handed batsman Babar Azam hit a quick-fire half century to guide Pakistan to a 20-run victory against the World XI in the first match of the Independence Cup Twenty20 series here on Tuesday.
Pakistan, who were asked to bat first by Faf du Plessis, amassed 197-5 in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Gaddafi Stadium. In reply, the World XI managed 177-7.Pakistan’s innings revolved around a 52-ball 86 by Babar. His innings included 10 fours and two sixes. Babar was adjudged man of the match. He said at the presentation ceremony: “I want to dedicate this innings to the people of Pakistan because it is always nice to play in front of home fans.”
“It was a good game, I thought Pakistan played exceptionally well,” World XI captain South Africa’s Faf du Plessis said. “I thought it was a 180 wicket, so maybe we gave away 20 runs too many. Our bowling was possibly one-dimensional. They had a lot of variety, spinners, left-arm, right-arm. It was a great occasion to play here, and as soon as we walked onto the field, it was just a normal game.”
Fakhar Zaman, Pakistan’s hero in their ICC Champions Trophy title victory, struck two fours off Morne Morkel’s first two balls but returned to the dug-out in the same over. He offered a simple catch to Hashim Amla in the lone slip.Babar joined Ahmed Shehzad and looked in brilliant form as he dispatched the first ball he faced to the mid-wicket boundary. He shared a 122-run partnership off 81 balls with Ahmed (39) to set the tone for a big Pakistan total.
Darren Sammy broke the stand with a brilliant low catch at fine leg off Ben Cutting in the 15th over to dismiss Ahmed. Babar followed in the next over when he was caught in the deep by David Miller off the bowling of Imran Tahir, the Lahore-born South African leg-spinner.
Shoaib Malik (38 off 20 balls) and Imad Wasim (15 not out) made sure Babar’s good work was not undone. Thisara Perera bowled the last over and went for 21 runs, which included a six by Malik and two by Imad.
Hashim Amla (26) and Tamim Iqbal (18) gave the World XI a good start with a 43-run stand. But left-arm seamer Rumman Raees dismissed both in the last over of the batting powerplay. Du Plessis looked good in making 29, which included four boundaries and a six. But Pakistan’s young leg-spinner Shadab Khan removed Du Plessis and Miller (9) to finish with figures of 2-33. Sammy hit three sixes in his 29 not out but it wasn’t enough to take his team to victory.
Sohail Khan and Rumman Raees claimed two wickets each for, 28 and 37 runs, respectively. The second match will be played today (Wednesday) and the third and final game of the series is slated for Friday.
Scores in brief: Pakistan 197-5 in 20 overs (Babar Azam 86, Ahmed Shehzad 39, Shoaib Malik 38, Imad Wasim 15 not out; Thisara Perera 2-51, M Morkel 1-32, Imran Tahir 1-34). World XI 177-7 in 20 overs (D Sammy 29 not out, F du Plessis 29, H Amla 26, T Paine 25; Sohail Khan 2-28, Rumman Raees 2-32, Shadab Khan 2-28). Result: Pakistan won by 20 runs.