Pakistan’s 7-run win over West Indies in the second T20I at the National Stadium in Providence, Guyana, on Saturday turned on six elements:
Pakistani skipper Babar Azam’s beautiful batting, rain’s inopportune 17-minute interruption, Man-of-the-Match Mohammad Hafeez’s miserly bowling, Evin Lewis’ untimely injury, WI skipper Kieron Pollard’s uncharacteristic lack of timing, and a whopping 47 dot balls in the WI innings.
But a seventh element, something near the best form of WI vice-captain Nicholas Pooran, almost proved sufficient on its own to counterbalance the first six. Pooran’s eventual 62 off 33 balls meant that, despite having a mountain to climb at 84 for 3 in over #15 in pursuit of 158, WI still had a theoretical chance of victory with three balls left in the final over.
Needing 18 for the win, they got only 10 to end on 150 for 4.
The left-handed Pooran was joined by his skipper at 76 for 3. When Lewis (35 off 33), who had been uncharacteristically content to keep the scoreboard moving steadily rather than swiftly, was seen holding his stomach, the WI physio deemed retirement advisable.
There were still just over six overs left and 82 still required for the win, a task not beyond a set Lewis and his remaining partners, who did not include on the day either Andre Russell or Fabian Allen.
But it mattered not to Pooran. From 84 for 3 at the end of #15, WI raced to 123 for 3 at the end of #18, the 25-year-old Trinidadian leading the charge with 18, 10 and 11 off Mohammad Wasim’s #16, Hasan Ali’s #17 and Shaheen Shah Afridi’s #18 respectively.
When the Guyana Warriors player clouted Hasan for successive sixes—he hit six in all plus four fours—and a total of 15 in over #19, only 20 were needed off Shaheen’s last over.
But after conceding two runs off the first, the skilful left-handed pacer produced a dot ball off the fourth.
And thus was the result sealed.
The strong Pakistani position had been set up after Pollard asked them to take first strike on a track described in the pitch report as ‘hard and firm, which means there will be pace and true bounce’.
Azam was the top scorer, his 51 off 40 balls featuring four fours and two sixes. He never looked in trouble against any of the bowlers and seemed to be biding his time for an all-out onslaught in the final five overs when the skies opened at 134 for 2 and forced the players off the field.
Off the first ball after the interruption, attempting to force a widish delivery from Jason Holder through the offside, Azam got an edge and the third umpire ruled him out caught at the wicket.
Thereafter, the Pakistan innings went into rapid decline, four overs yielding a mere 23 runs with six wickets falling, leaving the eventual total a disappointing 157 for 8.
Both Holder (4/26) and Dwayne Bravo claimed wickets with successive balls, Romario Shepherd leaping high to pouch a very well judged, one-handed beauty at long-on to give Holder Sohaib Maqsood’s scalp.
Of the last seven batsmen, only number 4 Fakar Zaman (15 off 11, 2 x 4), fifth man out, contrived to reach double figures.
At the start, openers Sharjeel Khan and Mohammad Rizwan had raced to 39 off the first four overs before Holder deceived the former into offering a catch to Akeal Hosein at mid-on.
The Powerplay yielded a relatively modest 55 runs with Azam on one off the three balls he had faced and Rizwan taking the attack to the bowlers on 29 off 18.
By the end of the 10th, the total was 85, the skipper on 24 off 20 balls and the opener on 36 off 25. The pair progressed steadily to 113 before Hayden Walsh (4-0-25-0), whose leg-spin the batsmen had found difficult to get on top of, intervened. His direct hit from backward square-leg found the Pakistani wicketkeeper short of his ground and sent him on his way four short of a half-century. His knock contained two fours and two sixes and the partnership was worth 67.
After that only the 3rd-wicket partnership between Azam and Zaman exceeded 20.
Early in the West Indies innings, Andre Fletcher had demonstrated conclusively that he is not up to the task, Hafeez removing his off-stump with the second ball of the innings. It would be the off-spinner’s only wicket but his four miserly overs, three of them in the Powerplay, ramped up the scoreboard pressure on the WI batsmen.
Chris Gayle (16 off 20) failed again, clean bowled by Hasan.
Shimron Hetmyer (17 off 18) added a solid 39 with Lewis before he had his furniture disturbed by Wasim at 71 for 3. And just when the WI faithful felt the in-form left-handed opener would cut loose and take them to victory, he clutched his stomach and departed, to be replaced by an out-of-sorts Pollard.
Despite changing his bat a couple of times, the WI skipper, who clobbered six sixes in a single over off Sri Lanka’s Akila Dhananjaya in early March, simply could not get going—managing only 13 off the 14 balls he faced. Not once did he contrive to clear the boundary or even reach it.
The hard-hitting, usually dependable WI skipper has now gone past 50 only twice in 13 T20I innings since the start of 2020.
That is likely to be the subject of some concern in both dressing rooms before the start of Sunday’s Game Three.
Toss: West Indies
Pakistan 157 for 8 (B Azam 51, Mohammad Rizwan 46, Jason Holder 4/26, DJ Bravo 2/24)
West Indies: 150 for 4 (N Pooran 62*, M Hafeez 1/6, M Wasim 1/32)
Man-of-the-Match: Mohammad Hafeez
Result: Pakistan win by 7 runs
Pakistan lead four-match series 1-0.