Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
It was a fairytale ending for Pakistan in the Independence Cup as opener Ahmed Shehzad thumped a brilliant 89 to not only lead his side to a 33-run win over the World XI, but a 2-1 series win as well.
Coming into the game, Pakistan would have been looking to rebound from their narrow seven-wicket loss to the World XI in the second Twenty20 International.
Being put in to bat first, Pakistan got off to a great start as Shehzad and Fakhar Zaman amassed a 61-run partnership before Zaman was run out by Darren Sammy for 27.
Shehzad and Babar Azam kept the scoreboard ticking with a 102-run stand, during which Shehzad sailed past his fifty.
With Pakistan cruising, the World XI were in desperate need of a wicket, but they had to wait until the 18th over when Shehzad was run out by George Bailey for 89, which came off 55 balls and included eight boundaries and three sixes.
Azam went on to make 48 off 31 deliveries, which included five boundaries, before he was dismissed by Thisara Perera.
Even though Imad Wasim fell four balls later, Shoaib Malik’s quickfire 17 helped Pakistan finish on 183/4 off their 20 overs.
Thisara was the only bowler to take any wickets.
Chasing 184 to win, the World XI were dealt a big blow in the second over of their innings as opener Tamim Iqbal was clean bowled by Usman Khan for 14.
Just as the World XI were beginning to rebuild their innings, Ben Cutting was clean bowled by Hasan Ali for five, while Hashim Amla was run out by Zaman for 21 the very next ball.
Bailey and captain Faf du Plessis were on their way back to the pavilion shortly after, which left the World XI in all kinds of trouble as they were reduced to 67/5 in the 10th over.
Thisara and David Miller tried to rekindle the innings with a 45-run partnership, but they both ended up being removed for 32.
Sammy provided some fireworks towards the end of the innings, but his unbeaten 24 was not enough to get the World XI across the finish line as they concluded their innings on 150/8.
Hasan was the pick of the bowlers with two wickets, while Wasim, Usman and Rumman Raees claimed one wicket each.
Du Plessis was disappointed to have lost, and said: “This has been a huge success. We wanted to come here and play a small part in cricket coming back to Pakistan. Thank everyone for the opportunity for coming here. We were joking about it, the blokes were saying we should do this every year.
“For a lot of guys who don’t play a lot of international cricket these days, this was terrific competition against a strong Pakistan side. There’s lot more energy, their fielding is electric. That’s a big change. They’re as good as any team. Skills wise, yorkers, slower balls – they’re all there. We were very happy to be here and play a role. Thank you so much for the hospitality.”
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed was over the moon to have won the series, and said: “No praise is enough for the guys. The guys have stopped eating rice and rotis. Credit to the trainers and coaches for laying down strict markers towards fitness. We were sloppy in the second game but the way we came back today was superb. This is a young team, the focus is to ensure we give them confidence and opportunities.”
Shehzad was named Man of the Match, and said: “I was just trying to play to the situation. Maybe I failed to score big runs in the first two games but we had good partnerships that took us to the totals we wanted. Today I decided to bat till the end. I thought if others could do it, why wasn’t I able to build on my 30s and 40s. It came out well.
“I’ve been working really hard. The coaching staff have been with me through thick and thin. They showed their faith and trust in me when I didn’t score runs. I would like congratulate PCB and all the forces who have been working day and night. We’ve been talking to the international players and few of them even said they’d like to come back again. Yes, they came here, we all enjoyed but cricket wins.”