By Clifton Ross
IT was a mouthwatering encounter at Guyana National Stadium, Providence as Pakistan held their nerve to inflict a 7-run loss on West Indies after an outstanding all-round effort, to keep things interesting in the three-match T20 series.
Babar Azam played a captain’s knock for Pakistan, stroking an elegant top score of 51 from 40 balls with four fours and a pair of sixes. He found ideal support from the in-form Mohammed Rizwan who smacked a 36-ball 46.
Windies pacer Jason Holder stood out among the pack, returning sublime figures of 4-26 while veteran all-rounder Dwayne Bravo chipped in with 2 scalps to help restrict the visitors to 157-8 in 20 overs.
West Indies then came agonisingly short of their target, being restricted to 150-4 by the time their 20 overs expired. Wicketkeeper Nicholas Pooran led a resurgent fightback, hammering 62 not out from 33 balls with 4 fours and 6 massive sixes to his credit.
T20 specialist and match MVP ‘The Professor’ Mohammed Hafeez (1-6) made inroads with only his second delivery of spin, bamboozling Andre Fletcher who was comprehensively bowled for a duck.
Chris Gayle (16) smashed a solitary 6 but the introduction of Ali yielded the wicket of the ‘T20 Universe Boss’, who had his stumps removed by the pacer. Windies brought up their 50 in the 9th over but Shimron Hetmyer, who was looking good for his 17, was bowled by a beauty from Wasim.
Evin Lewis (35) then retired hurt after playing a shot and was tended to by the team physio. He was replaced by the skipper Kieron Pollard (13) who witnessed a brief onslaught from Pooran who took over the proceedings with his team behind the run chase.
The left-hander smashed Hasan for successive sixes; the second took him to 50 in style. But with 20 needed from the final over, Pollard fell to a catch in the deep while Pooran managed a few boundaries but they weren’t enough to keep the tourists from notching up a strong win.
Earlier, batting first under some bright sunshine, Pakistan had a mixed start after Sharjeel Khan got things going with 20 off 16 (2×4 1×6) before Holder had him out, caught.
Unfazed by their loss, Rizwan and his captain joined forces to launch a classy comeback, taking full advantage of the batting powerplay.
Both right-handers looked to rotate the strike while finding the ropes and beyond when necessary, bringing up the team’s 100-run as well as their own 2nd wicket 50-run partnership off 47 balls both in the 13th over.
However, the 67-run partnership was not allowed to further flourish as Rizwan was run-out a few runs short of what would have been another good half-century. Babar then edged Holder into the gloves of a waiting Pooran behind the stumps as the pendulum swung in Windies’ favour.
Wickets then fell in a flurry as Holder and Bravo led a back-end comeback with the ball, even at one point being on respective hat-tricks together with the Pakistanis batting order slowly collapsing, eventually being kept to under 160 when their 20 overs expired. The third T20 match will be played today at the same venue strting at 11.00am.