New Delhi: What a way to welcome back cricket! An astounding all-round show by Pakistan helped the home team upset the Faf du Plessis-led World XI by 20 runs in the first Twent20 international match of the Independence Cup at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, on Tuesday. (PAK vs WXI, 1st T20I: As it happened...)
Winning the toss, du Plessis elected to bowl first and Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed didn't seem disappointed at all. The boys are excited, he exclaimed and each of their stroked echoed loud, louder than the home crowd cheering for them.
It was their second international game since the 2009 terror attack on the touring Sri Lankan team bus. Zimbabwe was the other team that had visited the nation for a T20I series back in 2015. But in a way, they seemed tensed or nervous playing for the first time in front of the home crowd.
After two back-to-back boundaries from opener Fakhar Zaman (8) was dismissed in the very first over of the match by Morne Morkel. Fourth ball, back of the length delivery placed slightly outside the off stump, as the opener edged it straight to Hashim Amla at slip. Babar Azam (86) walked in next to play a rampaging innings at Lahore to bolster Pakistan's score after the early dismissal.
He stitched a phenomenal 122-run stand for second wicket alongside Ahemd Shehzad (39) as Pakistan stood at 130 runs at the loss of one wicket at the end of 14th over. The 22-year-old laced together 10 boundaries and two sixs to notch up a 52-ball 86, his career-best T20I score. It was only his second fifty in the shortest format of the game.
At one point, it seemed that the ICC Champions Trophy winners could set up a ammsive target of 200-plus, quick wickets bagged by World XI side dented their desires of a big score. But it was former skipper Shoib Malik to the rescue. His late cameo of 38 runs from 20 deliveries studded with four boudaries and two over-the-rope shots helped the Pakistani side once again realise their dream.
And after the right-handed batsman's shock dismissal in the final over of their innings, Imad Wasim held onto the rope tight and notched up two big sixes from the three remaining deliveries as Pakistan posted an astounding target of 198 runs.
Eyeing a colossal target, World XI openers Tamim Iqbal (18) and Hashim Amla (26) stepped in. Seven boundaries and a six as the duo put up a fiery 43-run partnership. But it was Rumman Raees' deceiptive slower deliveries that dd its magic to remove both the openers in his very first over. Time Paine (25) and skipper Faf (29) put up a 53-run stand for the third wicket with the Proteas batsman punishing The Champions Trophy hero Hasan Ali with 22 runs in the 12th over as the World XI side breached the 100-run mark.
And just when things looked remotely possible for the visitors, Shadab Khan struck and struck again to as World XI slumped further in their quest to 198. Wickets kept coming at regular intervals as the remaining pinch of hope – Thisara Perera (17) and Darren Sammy (29) failed to take their side through. Their brave fight ceased at 177 runs at the loss of seven wickets as Pakistan registered a 20-run victory in the opening game of the Independence Cup.
"It was an important game. Babar and Shehzad played really well. Shoaib Malik did well towards the end. There's lot of talent in the domestic circuit and I'm sure many youngsters will get their chances in the future if they keep working on getting better. I want to thank the crowd and PCB for making this a grand success. It has been organized very well and I'm delighted." said Sarfraz.
The home team will next take up the World XI side for the second T20I match of the series at the same venue on September 13.