Pakistan 284 for 9 in 49 overs (Azam 120, Sharjeel 54, Carlos Brathwaite 3-54) v West Indies
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
There is plenty to like about Babar Azam. He is technically correct in defence and drives the ball serenely with the head firmly over the ball. He was among those to receive glowing appraisals from coach Mickey Arthur after the disastrous tour of England. The 21-year-old Azam only enhanced his reputation in Sharjah with his maiden ODI hundred, against West Indies. His effort, sandwiched between Sharjeel Khan’s half-century upfront, and late blows from Imad Wasim, led Pakistan to a healthy 284 for 9 in a match reduced to 49 overs because of a floodlight failure. Duckworth-Lewis revisions left West Indies staring at a target of 287.
Azam arrived after the first ball of the match, a Shannon Gabriel beauty, which had Azhar Ali nicking behind for duck. It took a stunning hokey-pokey catch from Kieron Pollard at the edge of the wide long-on boundary to ultimately dismiss Azam in the 43rd over for 120 off 131 balls.He had lugged 70 of those runs in ones and twos, which pointed to excellent running in humid conditions.
Azam was involved in two partnerships, which shaped the innings. He first added 82 for the second wicket with Sharjeel, then 99 for the fourth with Sarfraz Ahmed. Azam was wary of the seam movement generated by Holder and Gabriel, and played with a straight bat more often than not. It was Sharjeel who did the early running, clattering 44 of Pakistan’s 60 in the Powerplay.
That Sharjeel could clatter the ball, despite West Indies’ method of blocking out his favoured leg-side region came as another positive for Pakistan. With the seamers’ modus operandi being testing Sharjeel in the channel outside off, he responded by hitting a flurry of boundaries in the ‘V’. He scythed Gabriel over mid-off for a brace of fours before shovelling Carlos Brathwaite and Holder over long-on.
The introduction of spin, however, slowed Pakistan down. Only 65 runs came off the next 15 overs for the loss of Sharjeel and Shoaib Malik. Sulieman Benn, who bowled slower through the air as opposed to firing it in, provided West Indies with their first breakthrough when he had Sharjeel skewing an outside edge to short third man for a 43-ball 54. Twenty balls later, Sunil Narine found Shoaib Malik’s outside edge, which was held at slip.
In between the two wickets, Azam had the first of the two insecure moments during his knock. Benn slid in an arm-ball, which rapped Azam on the pad. Ahsan Raza, the on-field umpire, shot down the appeal, but Holder insisted on a review. Hawk-Eye showed that the ball would carry onto hit the top of the stumps, which meant umpire’s call was upheld. Then in the 27th over, he escaped when Carlos Brathwaite failed to effect a direct hit off his own bowling following a mix-up with Sarfraz.
Sarfraz, himself, was reprieved on 5 when Denesh Ramdin fluffed a stumping chance. He proceeded to keep the score ticking with Azam, singles and twos being the preferred mode of advancement for Sarfraz as well. Just as he threatened to cut loose, Holder duped him with a slower ball.
Azam, however, cut loose, raising his ton off 119 balls, having been on 50 off 74 balls. He reached three figures when he drove Narine through the covers in the 38th over. He celebrated the landmark by leaping in the air before sinking to perform the sajdah.
Azam then spanked Benn and Narine for leg-side sixes, but when he attempted likewise against Carlos Brathwaite, Pollard snaffled the big hit. A floodlight failure, which lasted for over an hour, handed West Indies another respite.
Pakistan were limited to 24 for 3 in 4.3 overs upon resumption, but they still held the advantage, especially after having whitewashed West Indies in the T20Is.