Before the first ODI between Pakistan and West Indies, no one asked whether Babar Azam’s batting average was 59 or Imam-ul-Haq’s 53. If there was a question, then where did the mercury reach in Multan?
On the day that started with the hot morning, the mercury had risen to over 40 degrees and when both captains Nicholas Poorn and Babar Azam came on the field for the toss at 3:30 pm, the intensity of the heat was 44 in numbers. Was describing the degree.
But then the heat of the game took over the weather. The spectators forgot the weather for a while and got so engrossed in the game that at 12:40 pm they saw Pakistan winning by five wickets. When it was announced after the match that Babar Azam would be awarded the Man of the Match award for his century, he came and said, “I want to give the Man of the Match (award) to Khushdal Shah.”
And rightly so. The key to Pakistan’s victory was Khushdal Shah who played a match-winning inning of 41 not out with the help of four sixes and a four. The innings were reminiscent of his 17-ball 27-run innings against Australia, which he used to turn a 349-run target into a victory.
In pursuit of the 306-run target, the Pakistani team lost the wicket of Fakhr Zaman to an individual score of only 11 when the same pair of Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq appeared on the crease who had crossed the big target of 349 runs against Australia.
The two shared a century in the third match in a row. Imam-ul-Haq crossed the 50 mark in the fifth consecutive ODI innings but he had to pay a heavy price for the reverse sweep on the ball of left-arm sniper Aqeel Hussain for an individual score of 65. This second wicket of Pakistan fell on the score of 129.
Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan had a long journey ahead. Both added 108 runs for the third wicket partnership.
Babar Azam, like Imam-ul-Haq, played fifty or more innings in the fifth consecutive ODI, but most importantly, he proved his class once again by shifting his score to three digits for the fourth time in those five innings. This was his 17th overall century in ODIs.
Babar Azam has also become the first batsman in the world to score centuries in three consecutive ODIs twice in a row.
The dramatic turn in Pakistan’s innings came when first Babar Azam was dismissed for 103 and then Mohammad Rizwan for 59 and the match was tilted towards West Indies.
When Rizwan’s wicket fell, the Pakistani team needed 50 runs off 32 balls to win. At this stage, Khushdal Shah hit three sixes on the consecutive balls of Romario Shepard to show that the game is not out of hand yet but on the other hand Shadab Khan’s dismissal for 6 runs was a big blow.