Malik’s gritty fifty anchors Pakistan’s chase

Pakistan's Shoaib Malik(R) plays a shot as Bangladesh's wicketkeeper Liton Das looks on during the first T20 international cricket match of a three-match series between Pakistan and Bangladesh at Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore on January 24, 2020. (Photo by ARIF ALI / AFP)

Shoaib Malik, playing his first international game since announcing his retirement from ODIs after the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, scored an unbeaten 58 to guide Pakistan home in first of the three T20Is played at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Friday, 24 January.

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Chasing Bangladesh’s 141/5, Pakistan lost Babar Azam for a duck early in the chase, after the skipper unsuccessfully challenged the on-field decision for a caught behind off medium-pacer Shaiful Islam in the very first over. Mohammad Hafeez, also making an international comeback looked good early on, striking three fours, but lobbed one to the short-cover fielder off Mustafizur Rahman to leave the hosts at a tricky 35/2 at the end of the fifth over.

Malik then joined Ahsan Ali, one of Pakistan’s two debutants, and the pair put on 46 for the third wicket to ensure steady progress. Ahsan lost his patience to the wrist-spin of Aminul, who gave little away in the middle overs. Iftikhar Ahmed edged one behind off Shaiful at 16, while Imad Wasim was castled by Al-Amin Hossain on the first ball of the penultimate over, with Pakistan still nine away. Malik, having already reached his fifty in the previous over, kept the scoreboard moving to reduce the equation off five off the final overs.

With the hosts still two away, Mohammad Rizwan, the keeper-batsman skied one to Mohammad Mithun at deep mid-wicket, but the fielder shelled the chance to allow Pakistan complete a five-wicket win.

Earlier, Tamim Iqbal (39) and Mohammad Naim (43) added 71 for the first wicket but struggled to accelerate on a sluggish surface after skipper Mahmudullah opted to bat. Haris Rauf, the debutant latched onto an opportunity brought about by the misjudgment from the pair, resulting in Tamim’s run-out on the last ball of the 11th over. The next three overs yielded 25 runs, but another run-out, this time brought about by a brilliant piece of fielding by Shadab Khan who found a direct-hit at the non-striker’s end to cut short Liton Das’s stay for 12, dented the progress.

Skipper Mahmudullah scored an unbeaten 19 off 14, while Naim top-scored for the visitors in their first innings effort of 141/5. Shaheen Afridi, Shadab and Rauf grabbed a wicket each.

The second game will be played on Saturday, 25 January at the same venue.