Hope’s ton in vain as Babar (103), Khushdil (41*) stun West Indies
Pakistan 306 for 5 (Babar 103, Imam 65, Joseph 2-55) beat West Indies 305 for 8 (Hope 127, Brooks 70, Rauf 4-77) by 5 wickets
It was all going to plan until it suddenly wasn’t.
The usual hundred from Babar Azam – his fourth in five innings – set Pakistan up for what looked like a fairly straightforward chase of 306, before a middle-order stutter let West Indies back in.
In the end, it was left to a gem of a cameo from Khushdil Shah, who smashed four sixes en route to an unbeaten 23-ball 41, to see Pakistan home by five wickets and four balls to spare.
It meant Shai Hope, whose 12th ODI hundred was classy enough to merit winning the game in its own right, ended up in vain, as the visitors fell just short in an attritional ODI.
The target didn’t hold much fear for Pakistan, at least while some combination of the ever-reliable top three were still out in the middle. When Jayden Seales forced Fakhar Zaman to flat-bat one to short point, it brought Imam and Babar together – two men who combined famously to chase down 349 against Australia.
The West Indies fast bowlers, though, kept things tight on a Multan surface that looked like it wasn’t allowing the ball to come on so easily in the evening, and for a while, it was all Pakistan could do to ensure they didn’t lose a cluster of wickets while waiting for batting to get easier.
While Babar took his time en route to his first 50 runs, Imam was brisker. After fortuitously surviving a marginal lbw call early on, he took on the charge of keeping the asking rate in check, finding regular boundaries and routinely turning the strike over. It took 56 balls for him to get to his half-century, by which time the asking rate was creeping to seven.
Eventually, though, the wicket-taking threat that West Indies posed began to fade, and Babar was beginning to whir into action. By the time Akeal Hosein struck to remove Imam, Babar was in full flow, inexorably motoring along to his 17th ODI hundred.
Mohammad Rizwan, whose lack of form in this format has come under scrutiny – if only for the sharp contrast it presents compared to his T20 record – kept him company. Pakistan was building towards something of a cruise of a finish, with 72 required in nine overs with eight wickets still in hand. (ESPNcricinfo)