Thursday Sep 14, 2017
The second match of the 2017 Independence Cup saw the World XI and Pakistan resume the action at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Plenty was at stake for both the sides. Pakistan were determined to clinch the series while the World XI were looking to live up to their billing by putting in a winning performance to keep the series alive.
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and opted to bat first. Left-arm tweaker Mohammad Nawaz, and promising young pacer Usman Shinwari, came into the side for Faheem Ashraf and Hasan Ali, respectively. During this time, the World XI chose to bolster their spin bowling options with West Indian T20 specialist Samuel Badree coming into the side for his compatriot Darren Sammy. England’s 2010 WT20-winning captain Paul Collingwood also took the place of Grant Elliott, adding valuable experience to the team, having already toured Pakistan back in 2006.
Dashing left-hander Fakhar Zaman once again got fair reward for attacking intent as he put the World XI new ball bowlers to the sword. While Aussie all-rounder Ben Cutting took the most punishment as his line and length deserted him. Pakistan were cruising at 40 for no loss until Zaman played one shot too many and was trapped leg before by Badree in the 5th over.
Then came the first encounter’s man of the match, Babar Azam. However, this time the World XI had clearly refined their bowling strategy. Both Ahmed Shehzad and Babar Azam struggled to get the boundary shots as the World XI bowling attack made brisk scoring difficult. In an innings that identically followed the script of the previous encounter, both Azam and Shehzad were dismissed in quick succession with Shoaib Malik and Imad Wasim once again providing the late impetus.
Malik in particular was in stupendous form, smacking three sixes in a quickfire innings of 39 runs off just 23 deliveries. Pakistan concluded the innings at 174 for 6, a stiff target once again for the World XI but not formidable by any means. Malik also became Pakistan’s most prolific runscorer in T20 internationals.
A brisk start to the run chase was crucial for the World XI if they were to chase the target set by Pakistan, and that was exactly what Tamim Iqbal and Hashim Amla delivered. Tamim looked set for a big innings but was unlucky to be dismissed for 23 by Shoaib Malik’s magnificent diving catch.
Hashim Amla at the other end though, was in a league of his own. The former South African Test captain put on a batting masterclass against the Pakistani pace and spin bowling alike, peppering the boundary boards at will as he raced to an effortless 50 off just 37 deliveries. Tim Paine and Faf du Plessis offered brief support but with 69 needed off the last 6 overs, it would need something special for the World XI to triumph. Nerves had begun to fray on both sides, with Pakistan captain Sarfraz looking extremely agitated with the poor fielding and wayward bowling from his charges.
Enter burly Sri Lankan all-rounder Thisara Perera, a man accustomed to producing his best against Pakistan. It was an assault for the ages, as bit by bit the Pakistani pace bowlers caved under pressure and were obliterated by Perera. With 33 required off the last two overs it was Sohail Khan who blinked first as he was smashed out of the park for two humongous sixes by Perera. Rumman Raees stepped up to bowl the final over with 13 runs standing between the World XI and victory, which Perera duly sealed with a straight six off the second last ball of the game. A whirlwind knock of 47 runs off just 19 deliveries from the Sri Lankan all-rounder, with five towering sixes added for good measure.
The partisan crowd was left awestruck by this demolition job by the World XI, and by the end was enthusiastic in their support for both teams. A loss for the home side it may be, but Pakistan cricket was most certainly the winner in a memorable evening in Lahore. But the best is yet to come and we will have to wait till Friday for it.