Pakistan carried their winning tempo of the Champions Trophy 2017 in the first One-Day International as they rode on a brilliant hundred by Babar Azam and a quickfire fifty by Shoaib Malik which enabled them to beat Sri Lanka by 83 runs in Dubai on Friday (October 13), taking a 1-0 lead in the five-match series
Playing their first ODI since they beat India in the final at The Oval in June, Pakistan posted a good total of 292 for 6 before their strong bowling line up restricted Sri Lanka to 209 for 8, led by the duo of Hasan Ali (3 for 36), the right-arm pacer, and Rumman Raees (3 for 49), the left-arm pacer.
Lahiru Thirimanne fought with 53 but it only delayed the inevitable once Pakistan reduced Sri Lanka to 67 for 5. Even a late stand of 68 between Akila Dananjaya (50 not out) and Jeffrey Vandersay (25) for the eighth wicket was not enough to bring Sri Lanka anywhere close to the target.
Despite it being a holiday though, not many people turned up at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium to watch the first match, and the stadium with a capacity of 25,000 was not even half full. The expectation that the ODIs would see packed stadiums after the no-shows during the preceding Test series proved to be unrealistic.
Once Babar Zaman’s 131-ball 103 and Malik’s 61-ball 81 set a daunting target, Pakistan’s bowlers kept the same tempo as they did in the Champions Trophy final against India, taking wickets regularly.
Sri Lanka had got off to a quick start with 30 runs by the fourth over, but Raees, fresh from taking 9 for 25 in a first-class innings last week, removed Niroshan Dickwella (19) and Dinesh Chandimal (4) in successive overs.
Mohammad Hafeez had Upul Thanarga in all sorts of trouble before clean bowling him for 18. The offspinner, who was missed in the Test matches, not only checked the flow of runs but also took a key wicket. Sri Lanka went from 67 for 3 to 67 for 5 with the ever-lively Hasan dislodging Kusal Mendis (2) and Milinda Siriwardana off successive deliveries to end all hopes of a Sri Lankan win. Hasan bowled in the same vein as he had during the Champions Trophy, where his 13 wickets fetched him the player of the series award.
When Pakistan batted it was Babar and Malik who lifted them to an imposing total.
Malik gave the innings the real impetus when he walked in, in the 28th over with Pakistan looking shaky at 124 for 3. He reached his 40th half-century off 45 balls as he took some time to get set. But once he was set he lifted the tempo by regularly rotating the strike and hitting a six and two boundaries off Thisara Perera.
With Sania Mirza, Malik’s wife, watching from the royal box he looked set for a rapid-fire hundred when he holed out at deep midwicket off Suranga Lakmal. His knock included five boundaries and two sixes.
Babar, who had been out of form in the Test series with eight runs in four innings, batted with caution initially and reached his hundred with five boundaries. This was the slowest of his six hundreds. Babar was finally out in the penultimate over off Lakmal. Pakistan lost three wickets in nine balls with Sarfraz Ahmed falling for 1. Imad Wasim (10) and Hasan Ali (11 not out) added 23 runs in the last eight balls – with 89 coming off the last ten for Pakistan overall.
Pakistan had started badly with Ahmed Shehzad playing his normal game to get set at the expense of the team’s scoring rate. Shehzad, who hadn’t played after scoring just 12 in the Champions Trophy league match against India, failed to score off 11 balls before he jumped out to play an aggressive shot but only ended giving a catch to square leg fielder.
Fakhar Zaman and Babar steadied the innings with a sedate 64-run stand before Zaman missed Akila Dananjaya’s googly and was bowled for 43, inclusive of four boundaries and a six. Mohammad Hafeez too looked in a fine nick in his 38-ball 32 but holed out the ball after being reprieved from a leg-before decision on review.
The second ODI is in Abu Dhabi on Monday.