Babar Azam and Shadab Khan made the second of five One-Day Internationals their own as their sparkling performances helped Pakistan clinch a low-scoring match by 32 runs in Abu Dhabi on Monday (October 16) despite a tremendous fight led by Upul Tharanga.
Azam hit his second ODI century in a row, scoring 101, while Shadab knocked a career-best unbeaten 52 to stage a grand recovery from 101 for 6 to steer Pakistan to a fighting 219 for 9 on a slow pitch, before Shadab, still a teenager, returned 3 for 47, also the best in a short nine-match ODI career, to dismiss Sri Lanka for 187.
Pakistan did make mistakes to give Sri Lanka a chance, dropping Tharanga as many as three times, but their spinners finally did the job, leaving the Sri Lanka captain stranded on 112 not out after opening the innings.
At 93 for 7, Sri Lanka were down for the count, but Tharanga in partnership with Jeffrey Vandersay added 76 for the eighth wicket, but it only delayed the inevitable.
Tharanga kept one end intact during his 15th ODI century, but at the other side, wickets fell at regular intervals, with Mohammad Hafeez taking 1 for 24 and Shoaib Malik finishing with 1 for 17 to go with Shadab’s three-for, and Pakistan took a 2-0 lead even as Sri Lanka lost their ninth game in a row.
Batting first after winning the toss, Pakistan, too, found the going tough, but Azam and Shadab led the resistance. In the process, Azam became the fastest to score seven ODI tons, reaching the mark in his 33rd innings to break Hashim Amla’s mark of 41.
The Pakistani batsmen before the Azam-Shadab stand fell going for their shots. Fakhar Zaman hit two boundaries in his 11 before a ball stopped on him and he scooped a catch. Ahmed Shehzad also fell in the same style after scoring eight.
Hafeez did hit a six but the very next ball, Lahiru Gamage swung one late and the ensuing edge was taken by Niroshan Dickwella behind the stumps. Malik and Babar added 31 and it looked like they would bat on like they had in the first match, but Malik too played a cut early and was caught behind. Sarfraz Ahmed’s lean patch continued as he dragged one on to the stumps, and that left half the side back in the pavilion for 79 in 20 overs.
It was then left to Azam to get support from the late-order batsmen; he first added 21 with Imad Wasim (10) and another 109 for the seventh wicket with Shadab. But boundaries were so hard to come by that there were none off 51 balls in the middle overs.
Shadab, more known for his legspin, proved he had the makings of an allrounder with a mature knock in just his second outing with the bat in ODI cricket. He rotated the strike, ran fast and batted with resolve. It was enough to win the day for Pakistan.
Lahiru Gamage was the best of the Sri Lankan bowlers, ending with 4 for 57, while Thisara Perera returned 2 for 34.
The third match, also in Abu Dhabi, will be played on Wednesday.