Pakistan claimed a relatively comfortable five-wicket win as Shoaib Malik marked his return to the side with a half-century while Shaheen Shah Afridi continues to impressed with the ball. The hosts need to win all three games to remain at the helm of the T20I rankings and they have kept hold of that for now.
Here are three talking points from the first game:
Muhammad Hasnain is not ready: Pakistan’s insistence on playing Hasnain is hurting both player and team. The 19-year-old has pace to burn but that alone is not enough at the highest level. He was wayward once again and was the worst bowler for the hosts with figures of 0-36. Hasnain has now played five ODIs and five T20Is. His average and economy in ODIs is 60.6 and 7.39, while they are 57.66 and 8.65 in T20Is respectively. He just isn’t good enough yet.
Shaheen Shah shows his class: It bears reminding that Shaheen Shah Afridi is still just 19 because his performances often belie his age. The pacer was once again Pakistan’s best bowler and the faith shown in him by skipper Babar Azam was clear as he bowled two overs in the powerplay before bowling two more at the death. He gave away just 23 runs in his four overs while also getting a wicket. On a pitch that offered more to spinners than to the pacers, it was a masterclass in ruthless yorkers and cunning change of pace.
Pakistan’s batting shows it’s more than just Babar Azam: The Men in Green won only one T20I in all of 2019 and the wicket of the talismanic Babar in the very first over for a duck must have set the cat among the pigeons. The ball was holding up on the surface and there was some uneven bounce but the batsmen hung in there despite some unconvincing moments. Muhammad Hafeez made only 17 but his three boundaries ensured Pakistan had some momentum at the start of the innings before Shoaib Malik’s half-century showed just why Babar wanted the duo back. Opener Ahsan Ali also played a gutsy 36 off 32 deliveries on debut to show there is more to Pakistan than just their star turn.