With five overs left, the asking rate had soared above nine per over. The slow-going in the middle overs was understandable, given that Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik had to do a major repair work, chasing 130 for victory. At 17/3, Pakistan’s reputation was at stake.
Mohammad Shahzad bowled the 16th over and conceded two singles in his first two balls before Malik drove him through the cover for a boundary. The medium pacer responded well with a yorker. Pressure was building on Malik and he attempted a pull to a length delivery, getting a top edge in the process. A sparse turnout at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium was supporting the underdogs and the fans sensed a wicket. But Usman Mushtaq dropped the sitter at deep square. It proved to be costly.
Malik celebrated his luck by hitting a four and a six off Rohan Mustafa, Akmal clobbered two sixes and a four off Amjad Javed and that was that. Pakistan eventually won the match by seven wickets with eight balls to spare, surviving a serious scare upfront.
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An unbeaten 114-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Akmal and Malik made that possible. Both reached half-centuries and took the wind out of UAE’s sails. Before that, however, a motley group of semi-professionals —
UAE captain Amjad Javed is a cargo loader with Emirates Airlines — threatened to pull off a major upset.
UAE were defeated, but not disgraced. They fought well, both with bat and ball. They chose to bat first on a slow pitch but found Pakistan fast bowlers a little too quick through the air for their comfort. Mustafa attempted an ugly slog off Mohammad Sami and was caught at mid-off by Shahid Afridi. Then, Mohammad Amir rattled Muhammad Kaleem’s stumps with a 145 km/h delivery. Mohammad Irfan came and dismissed Shahzad with extra bounce.
WATCH: What went right for Pakistan, wrong for UAE (App users click here)
UAE were staring down the barrel but Shaiman Anwar stood firm. He paced his innings beautifully, mixing caution with aggression. When debutant left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz came, he opened his shoulder. The six over long-off was superbly struck and as overs rolled by, he upped the ante, hitting the spinner for another six and a four. Afridi was hammered for three consecutive boundaries. Muhammad Usman, too, joined the party with a six and a four off Malik.
Anwar’s 42-ball 46 was the reason why UAE reached respectability. Usman chipped in with a 17-ball 21, while skipper Javed remained not out on 27 off 18 balls.
Against India, Pakistan had batted like amateurs. Here again their top-order didn’t seem to have learnt from the mistakes. Sharjeel Khan tried to play across the line to a full delivery without moving his feet. It was a marginal decision that went the bowler’s way. Khurram Manzoor departed two balls later, trying to cut Javed, when there was very little room available. He nicked it to the keeper. In the two matches Manzoor has played so far, he didn’t look like a Pakistan No. 3 batsman. Experienced Mohammad Hafeez, too, fell cheaply, driving a widish delivery from Javed straight to cover.
PHOTOS: Malik, Akmal save the night
But UAE captain seemed to miss a trick by not bringing back his fastest bowler Mohammad Naveed. He also miscalculated by holding himself back a little too long at the death. In the end it was UAE’s inexperience that paved way for a Pakistan win, but leaving them plenty to ponder, especially about their batting.
Brief scores: UAE 129/6 (Shaiman Anwar 46, Amjad Javed 27 n.o.; Mohammad Amir 2/6, Mohammad Irfan 2/30) lost to Pakistan 131/3 in 18.4 overs (Shoaib Malik 63 n.o., Umar Akmal 50 n.o.; Amjad Javed 3/36) by 7 wickets.