Returning veteran Shoaib Malik’s unbeaten half century helped Pakistan chase down Bangladesh’s 142-run target at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Friday.
The modest 142-run target could have troubled the hosts, had it not been for returning veteran Shoaib Malik’s 58, which got the host over the line even if it took them until the final over.
The run chase
Pakistan’s run chase had the worst possible start as captain and superstar batsman Babar Azam departed for nought.
Mohammad Hafeez, back playing for Pakistan for the first time since the World Cup last year, joined Ahsan Ali in the middle.
The veteran showed his class straightaway, effortlessly finding some boundaries that eased off some pressure. And as has been his hallmark throughout his career, he perished after so much promise. His 16-ball 17 was neither here nor there.
At the end of the 5th over, Pakistan were 35-2 and in need of a partnership. The partnership did come but courtesy the other returning veteran in the side, Shoaib Malik, and Ahsan.
Malik rotated the strike, something on which he has built his long career, as Pakistan reached 68-2 at the end of 10 overs, needing a mere 74 off the remaining 60 balls.
Their 46-run stand came to an end in the 12th over when Ahsan tried to smack when out of the park but skied up. He scored 36 off 32 on debut.
Malik and new man Iftikhar Ahmed did not let the loss of wicket affect the proceedings as the two happily rotated the strike and brought the score to 106-3 at the end of 15 overs.
Pakistan lost Iftikhar Ahmed and Imad Wasim in the final five overs but Malik stayed and did just enough to get his side a five-wicket win with three balls to spare.
Earlier, the Tigers started their innings confidently, not taking any risks but still finding a boundary here and there. Mohammad Naim, the 19-year-old opener, was the more prominent of the two Bangladeshi openers through the first five overs. At this stage, the visitors were 29-0.
Haris, the Lahore Qalandars pacer and debutant, was introduced in the sixth over amid loud cheers. He generated decent pace but was hit for a four on the second ball of his T20I career by Tamim Iqbal.
Iqbal copped a nasty one trying to pull Mohammad Hasnain in the 7th over but executed the stroke with perfection the very next ball, and hitting a four as Bangladesh neared the 50-run mark.
At the halfway mark, the visitors were 62-0, hoping to accelerate in the second half of their innings courtesy the wickets in hand.
The opening breakthrough finally came in the 11th over when Tamim Iqbal fell short while trying to reach the crease. He contributed 39 off 34 balls.
With boundaries proving hard to come by, the Tigers took more risk than usual and lost Liton Das (12), also to a run-out. Shadab Khan had Naim (43 off 41) caught at long-on the very next ball as Bangladesh were pegged back significantly.
With just five overs left, Bangladesh had a mere 100 on board with seven wickets left.
Haris, the crowd favourite, picked up the first wicket of his T20I career in the 18th over, cleaning up Afif Hossain (9).
Afridi also got a wicket in similar fashion as Bangladesh, in the end, managed to post 141 runs for the loss of five wickets.
The series was made possible after protracted negotiations between the Pakistan Cricket Board and their Bangladeshi counterparts due to the latter’s apprehensions regarding the security situation in Pakistan.
Pakistan, the world’s top-ranked T20I side, are on an alarming seven-match winless streak in the format, with their last win coming almost a year ago on February 6, 2019.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, came close to slaying the giant that is India in India when they last played a T20I series in November. Had it not been for Deepak Chahar’s six-for, the Tigers could have secured a famous series win in India.
They have been inactive in all forms of cricket for the last two months. Thus, rust could be a factor.
Pakistan: 1 Ahsan Ali, 2 Babar Azam (capt.), 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Iftikhar Ahmed, 6 Imad Wasim, 7 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Haris Rauf, 10 Shaheen Afridi 11 Mohammad Hasnain
Bangladesh: 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Mohammad Naim, 3 Afif Hossain, 4 Liton Das (wk), 5 Mahmudullah (capt.), 6 Soumya Sarkar, 7 Mohammad Mithun, 8 Aminul Islam, 9 Shafiul Islam, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Al-Amin Hossain