2 Apr 2018

Pakistan make winning return to Karachi

Pakistan ripped to shreds a depleted Windies side to emerge victorious by a massive 143-run margin - their biggest win in the format - as the visitors put on one of their most toothless batting performance in the format. Jason Mohammad's men surrendered meekly for 60 for 9 - 19 short of their previous lowest T20I total - allowing Pakistan to mark the occasion of international cricket's return to Karachi with great aplomb. Four out of the top-five batsmen for the home side chipped in with good performances, as a flying start and a blitzy finish pushed them past the 200-run mark. Windies may have begun the chase with a six, but endured an immensely forgettable outing to give away a series lead. 
The occasion 

You could tell the game meant an awful lot to Pakistan, and the locals of Karachi, when every break prompted the DJ at the ground to play 'Dil Dil Pakistan' over the loud speakers, and even get the crowd to join in. It was perhaps the least that Karachi could do to welcome international cricket after a nine-year hiatus. The recently-held PSL final may have whetted their cricketing appetite despite the absence of their local side in it, but very little perhaps, might come close to the joy of watching from the stands, their team in national colours. 

How was the game poised at the halfway stage? 

Skewed heavily in Pakistan's favour, as they equalled their highest-ever T20I total - 203 - which was previously achieved 10 years ago against Bangladesh. That was down to a flying start - provided by Fakhar Zaman, who smashed Samuel Badree for four fours in the first over. Babar Azam fell early, but Pakistan's top-order consolidated well as they had 56 runs on the board by the time field restrictions were relaxed. Zaman's free-flowing start was curbed by the error of his batting partner - and debutant - Hussain Talat, who was guilty of a yes-no call that ended with the opener's run out. Talat recovered from that and went on to make a highly impressive debut with the bat, as he and his captain Sarfraz Ahmed added 75 runs off 49 balls for the third wicket. After the duo were dismissed ten runs apart, Shoaib Malik took it upon himself to provide a flourising end. Windies were still on course to tie down Pakistan to around 180, until the last two overs saw them spiral out of control. First, Rayad Emrit conceded 23 runs off the penultimate over - 20 of which came off the last four balls which Malik faced. Faheem Ashraf raised his game in the final over, hitting 14 off the 21 that came off Keserick Williams. 

The powerplay contrast 

Pakistan - 56/1, Windies - 24/4 - There are times scorecards are self-explanatory. This was one of those times. 

Where did Windies falter? 

Everywhere. Their bowling was uninspiring, their fielding ordinary, and a horrific evening hit rock-bottom courtesy a shambolic batting show. 

The first-ball six from Chadwick Walton was the most misleading hit as far as 'signalling intent from the start' is concerned, as he fell off the third ball to lead an extraordinary procession. Andre Fletcher and stand-in captain Mohammad provided catching practice to Talat stationed at cover point, handing Amir two wickets in his first over. Denesh Ramdin's comeback was probably down to adding a bit of experience to a side that was devoid of its usual starters, but he didn't cover himself in glory when he flicked an absolutely innocuous and hittable delivery straight to Mohammad Nawaz at short midwicket to depart for a five-ball duck. There was just no end to error-prone decision-making from the batsmen, as Rovman Powell tamely hit one back to Shadab Khan, before Marlon Samuels was consumed by a Nawaz bait - a tossed up delivery right after he'd hit a four - and gave Ashraf a catch at point. 

From 33 for 6, there really was no way back. Keemo Paul and Emrit attempted to repair the wreckage - but they too could only go as far as an 18-run stand (the best of the innings) off 26 balls (the longest of the innings). Emrit could still be forgiven for his call to go big, as they were left with no other option. He nearly pulled it off too, only for Talat to take an exceptional catch on the boundary line. The decision needed intervention from the TV umpire, and was eventually awarded to Pakistan. Williams walked out and decided it was wise to chase after a Malik ball that was pitched outside the off-stump with an expansive drive, giving Babar Azam a regulation catch at first slip, and the bowler an opportunity for a hat-trick. Samuel Badree averted it, and even hit a six, before becoming Talat's first international scalp. This wicket ended Pakistan's innings on 60 for 9, as Veerasammy Permaul was unavailable to bat due to injury. 

How'd the debutants fare? 

There was joy and despair in equal proportion. Permaul was rather unfortunate as he twisted his left ankle quite badly and had to be stretchered off just three balls into his spell, and the much-talked about Asif Ali flattered to deceive, playing on for a two-ball one. But Keemo Paul turned out to be the only bright light in a grim bowling show from the Windies - conceding just 26 runs in four overs and picked the key wicket of Asif. 

With an allround performance, however, Talat shone the brightest. He followed his 37-ball 41 at No.3 with three catches and a wicket to cap off a debut he'll remember for years. 

What do the teams need to do better going ahead? 

Pakistan can surely work on their running between the wickets. They may have unearthed a combination gem with captain Sarfraz Ahmed at no. 4. He was excellent in his 22-ball stay, and may have extended it further if not for the run out of the well-set Hussain Talat that prompted Sarfraz to go for a big shot and perish. Sarfraz was understandably livid with bowler Keserick Williams, who - unintentionally - came in the way of the skipper while he attempted a second run with Talat. By the time Sarfraz sent Talat back, he was already half-way down the pitch and was dismissed. 

Windies will need to just erase the first game from memory and start afresh on Tuesday. There's very little time to head back to the drawing board, but if they do, shot-making will be on top of the to-be-discussed list. Their bowling too needs to tighten up, starting from Badree, who has the bulk of the responsibility on his shoulder. He had an off-day (0 for 37), and so did Emrit and Williams. That has got to change, and quick. 

Brief Scores: Pakistan 203/5 in 20 overs (Hussain Talat 41, Fakhar Zaman 39, Sarfraz Ahmed 38; Keemo Paul 1-26) beat Windies 60/9 in 13.4 overs (Marlon Samuels 18; Mohammad Amir 2-3, Shoaib Malik 2-13, Mohammad Nawaz 2-19) by 143 runs

Source -NDTV 

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