MULTAN: It looked like Pakistan had lost their way. Enter Khushdil Shah.
With three sixes off three successive balls, the diminutive left-hander single-handedly turned the opening ODI of the three-match series against the West Indies, to the delight of a packed Multan Cricket Stadium in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The West Indies seemed to have tightened the noose around Pakistan in their chase of 306 after century-making captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan were dismissed in quick succession.
With the asking rate rising, Khushdil knew something had to be done and Romario Shepherd was taken to the cleaners in the 47th over. The first six sailed over mid-wicket, the second straight down the ground before the third went over long-on.
Having started the over needing 44 off 24, Khushdil’s hitting saw them end it needing 24 off 18.
But there was still some drama in store. Shadab Khan departed in the following over. However, the nerveless Khushdil took Pakistan over the line in a tense climax as Pakistan won by five wickets with another towering six in the penultimate over before Mohammad Nawaz hit the winning runs, lifting Jayden Seales for a six on the second delivery of the last over.
Khushdil’s 23-ball 41 not out overshadowed Babar’s 103, Rizwan’s 59 and opener Imam-ul-Haq’s 65 with partnerships of 103 between Imam and Babar and then 108 between Babar and Rizwan laying the platform for the late heroics.
The focus ahead of the match was on the intense heat in Multan and while the match featured several water breaks to keep the players hydrated, and it ensured there was unrelenting action.
After West Indies elected to bat, opener Shai Hope struck an impressive century as they posted 305-8.
Pakistan got the ideal start when Shaheen Shah Afridi dismissed Kyle Myers but Hope (127) and Shamarh Brooks (70) combined for 154 runs to put the West Indies on track for a big total.
Pakistan hit back late on with pacer Haris Rauf picking up four wickets but cameos by Rovman Powell (32) and Shepherd (25) took the tourists past the 300 mark.
Pakistan lost opener Fakhar Zaman early but Babar, who hit nine fours, and Imam steadied the innings. After Imam fell, Rizwan ensured Pakistan kept up with the run rate.
S. Hope b Haris 127
K. Mayers c & b Shaheen Shah Afridi 3
S. Brooks c Shadab b Nawaz 70
N. Pooran c Khushdil b Haris 21
B. King c & b Shadab 4
R. Powell c M. Haris b Shaheen 32
R. Shepherd c Nawaz b Haris 25
A. Hosein c Hasan b Haris 8
A. Joseph not out 1
H. Walsh not out 2
EXTRAS (B-5, LB-2, W-5) 12
TOTAL (for eight wickets, 50 overs) 305
DID NOT BAT: Jayden Seales
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-9 (Mayers), 2-163 (Brooks), 3-198 (Pooran), 4-216 (King), 5-243 (Hope), 6-284 (Powell), 7-302 (Shepherd), 8-302 (Hosein)
BOWLING: Shaheen 10-1-55-2, Hasan 10-0-68-0, Haris 10-0-77-4, Nawaz 10-0-61-1, Shadab 10-0-37-1
Fakhar Zaman c Brooks b Seals 11
Imam-ul-Haq c Seales b Hosein 65
Babar Azam c Mayers b Joseph 103
Mohammad Rizwan c Pooran b Shepherd 59
Khushdil Shah not out 41
Shadab Khan c Pooran b Joseph 6
Mohammad Nawaz not out 8
EXTRAS (W-13) 13
TOTAL (for five wkts; in 49.2 overs) 306
DID NOT BAT: Mohammad Haris, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-26 (Fakhar), 2-129 (Imam), 3-237 (Babar), 4-256 (Rizwan), 5-284 (Shadab) BOWLING: Seales 9.2-1-53 -1, Shepherd 9-0-70-1, Joseph 10-0-55-2, Mayers 6-0-50-1, Hosein 10-0-50-1, Walsh 5-0-39-0