Economical Hafeez, half-centurion Babar set up Pakistan win as Pooran onslaught in vain

Pakistan 157 for 8 (Azam 51, Rizwan 46, Holder 4-26) beat West Indies 150 for 4 (Pooran 62*, Hafeez 1-6) by seven runs

Nicholas Pooran made his highest T20I score of 62 runs off 33 balls, but with no other West Indian striking at a rate above 107, the hosts, chasing 158, went down by seven runs against Pakistan in the second T20I in Guyana.
West Indies were strangled by Mohammad Hafeez’s accurate offbreaks and Shadab Khan’s mix of legbreaks and googlies, and the loss of regular wickets kept them behind in the chase. Hafeez’s four-over spell at an economy of 1.50 earned him the Player-of-the-Match award, though Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, too, made strong claims to that prize.
Azam, the only other half-centurion on the day, scored a 40-ball 51 that helped Pakistan cruise through the middle overs. With Rizwan, who made a 36-ball 46, Azam put on a 67-run second-wicket partnership. It set the tone for Pakistan to post a total well beyond the 157 they eventually achieved, but Jason Holder – who picked a four-wicket haul – and Dwayne Bravo kept taking wickets in the death overs to keep the visitors’ hard-hitting middle and lower order quiet.

Rizwan, Babar show their class

With Sharjeel Khan falling for a promising 16-ball 20, it was well inside the powerplay that Pakistan’s two most prolific batters of the last year got together. Initially, Azam was the slower one between the two as Rizwan punished Akeal Hosein for two sixes and followed it up with a four off Bravo.

Azam then found two boundaries off Romario Shepherd – playing instead of Andre Russell – through the leg side to get his day going, and despite accumulating a few dots thereafter, he found a way to break the rut. Hayden Walsh’s googly was pulled for six, his half-tracker was cut for four, and in the space of a few overs, Azam had raced away to 41 in 33 balls.

All this while, Rizwan was content dabbing the ball for ones and twos while Azam changed gears. But, in the 15th over, Rizwan fell victim to a direct-hit four runs short of a ninth T20I fifty. Azam had tapped a ball to the vacant midwicket and called early for the two, but a top effort from Evin Lewis to hit the non-striker’s stumps while the batters scurried for the second sent Rizwan back. However, Rizwan’s 46 was enough for him to earn the distinction of being the most prolific T20I batter in any calendar year with five months still to go in 2021. In the following over, Azam hit Shepherd for six to reach his fifty in 38 balls. A rain interruption followed soon after.

Pakistan collapse after rain

The rain break was short, and when Pakistan returned with four overs to go with the score 134 for 2, there was a genuine chance for them to aim for over 180. But Azam fell right then, out caught behind in a contentious decision where it appeared the bat may have hit the ground – and not the ball – but the umpire deemed it fair.

Bravo then picked up Hafeez and Fakhar Zaman in quick succession, followed by Holder removing Hasan Ali and Sohaib Maqsood, with Shepherd taking a one-handed stunner by the boundary line. Eventually, Pakistan added just 23 in their last 24 balls to reach 157.

A lesson from the professor

With right-hander Andre Fletcher taking strike in the chase, it was Hafeez’s spin that kicked off the proceedings. He struck second ball when Fletcher looked to defend a delivery that he had expected would turn in, leaving the channel outside off vacant. The ball zipped through, and knocked the off stump back, making his return to the XI – in place of the injured Lendl Simmons – somewhat underwhelming.

That spin would be a dominant factor in the chase, and Hafeez would continue to bowl in the powerplay against the two left-handers Evin Lewis and No. 3 Chris Gayle. Hafeez was mostly full on off and middle stump, and with the assistance of some sharp work from the infielders, he eked out 13 dot balls in his first spell of three overs where he conceded just five runs, including one maiden.

Later, when Pooran came in as the new batter in the 12th over, Hafeez was brought back against the left-hander, where he kept the pressure up with five dots and one single. In all, his four-over spell went for only six runs and earned him a wicket – his most economical T20I spell ever.

Lewis cramps up at a crucial time

Having seen Fletcher and Gayle fall without making much impact in a 31-run powerplay, Lewis took the conservative route early on. When Usman Qadir tossed it up early in his spell, Lewis went for the slog sweep for six that helped break his shackles. Soon after, Lewis had deposited fast bowler Mohammad Wasim’s slower ball for six over long off, and in Shimron Hetmyer’s company it seemed that the asking rate – that was starting to touch ten – would be brought down.

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