It was all festive in Lahore during the first Twenty20 International between Pakistan and World XI.
Things weren’t expected to change despite PCB chairman Najam Sethi acknowledging that they played their cards wrong and made a mistake by keeping tickets prices on the higher side, as the two teams geared up to meet for the second game of the three-match series on Wednesday (September 13).
The main aim of the three-match T20I series was to present an image of a stable Pakistan but that couldn’t be the sole criteria. The quality of cricket couldn’t be compromised and a good show was needed to promote cricket. The two teams did exactly that, producing a thriller as World XI sealed a seven-wicket with just one ball to spare. Hashim Amla guided World XI in the chase of 175 with an unbeaten 72 while Thisara Perera polished it off with a 19-ball 47.
Opting to bat, Pakistan were off to a brisk start courtesy Fakhar Zaman’s 21 off 13. However, Samuel Badree pinged him in front in the fifth over with 41 on the board. The scoring rate came considerably down soon after as Ahmed Shehzad and Babar Azam found it hard to get going. Although the scorecard displayed that Shehzad managed a respectable 43 off 34, in reality it was a struggle for the opener throughout his stay. He looked ungainly, lacked fluency and failed to dominate – unlike what’s expected of an opener in the shortest format.
Azam too took his time to get in, and after a 38-ball stay failed to push the scoring as he fell in the 17th over with 135 etched on the board. At that stage, Shoaib Malik again picked up the mantle and came to the rescue, putting in timely big shots to prop up Pakistan and lift them to a challenging total.
World XI came out all guns blazing with Tamim Iqbal (23) collecting a six and two boundaries in the third over off Imad Wasim to get the chase going. Amla picked up the pace from there, striking Usman Khan for two boundaries in the very next over.
Amla lost Tamim and Tim Paine but carried on in a solid manner to bring the equation down to 103 off the last ten overs. He got to his half-century off 37 deliveries but more importantly played a key role in giving Faf du Plessis the much-needed cushion to settle in during the chase. As they grew comfortable with the strength of their collaboration, the duo started taking chances. Du Plessis, though, went for one too many and was dismissed for 20 off 14 after hitting a couple of sixes.
World XI at that stage needed 69 off the last six overs. and it appeared the task looked out of Amla’s grasp, who was tiring in humid conditions. That’s when Perera stepped in to hammer the Pakistan bowlers all around the park. He picked up 20 off the 19th over bowled by Sohail Khan to leave 13 to get in the last over. With six needed off two, he hammered the penultimate ball out of the park to seal the win and keep the series alive.
Pakistan 174/6 in 20 overs (Babar Azam 45, Ahmed Shehzad 43; Thisara Perera 2-23)
World XI 175/3 in 19.5 overs (Hashim Amla 72*, Thisara Perera 47*) by seven wickets.