After posting 197 and 174 batting first in the first two T20s, the 183 in Friday’s decider was almost smack in the middle of the two. It proved to be more than enough for the World XI that had clinched the second T20 in dramatic fashion to ensure that the Independence Cup was kept alive till the final ball of the penultimate over of the series.
In the first half it was Ahmed Shehzad who – after two 34 ball innings in the first two T20s that were remembered more for those deliveries than the 39 and 43 he got off them – played a match-winning blinder in the finale.
His 55-ball 89, cut short by an unfortunate run out, proved to be the difference in Pakistan managing those 9 extra runs from the second T20 to take him the trophy.
It was the third straight game that Pakistan were batting first, the third straight time that Shehzad and Babar Azam got together after Fakhar Zaman departed and the third time that the duo put up a partnership together. Azam himself finished with 48 off 31, upping his own strike rate as well.
Following the pattern of the first two T20s Shoaib Malik also had a late flurry, finishing with 17 not out from 7 deliveries that included two sixes.
For the World XI, all bowlers went over 8.5 runs an over except for Darren Sammy who conceded only a run a ball in his 4 overs. Morne Morkel and Ben Cutting were the most expensive conceding 42 and 26 off 4 and 2 overs respectively.
Thisara Perrera was once again in the wickets as the sole wicket-taker in Pakistan’s 183/4, dismissing Babar Azam and Imad Wasim with Fakhar Zaman and Ahmed Shehzad being run out.
In reply, despite losing Tamim Iqbal early, World XI were looking good at 41/1 after four overs. It was the back to back dismissals of Ben Cutting (b Hasan Ali) and Hashim Amla (run out Fakhar Zaman/Ali) that jolted World XI and left them at 41/3 all of a sudden. It was the wicket of Amla, who had carried the bat in Wednesday’s chase, that proved to be the turning point of the match, with the World XI never recovering from that.
Perera, the match winner in the second T20, and arguably the player of the tournament from the World XI, again struck a few meaty blows to make the match interesting later on. His 32 off 13 balls included three successive sixes and a boundary off 4 consecutive balls in a Shadab Khan over. One of the sixes towards deep midwicket, that sailed into the crowd, was the longest hit since the resumption of international cricket at Gaddafi Stadium.
For Pakistan, Hasan Ali – further cementing himself as a big game player – was the pick of the bowlers in terms of wickets finishing with 2/28. He was more than ably supported by Ruman Raees – who only conceded 20 runs in his four overs, one of which was a maiden, taking a wicket as well – and Usman Shinwari who impressed with 1/26 off his 4 over, after only being used for a solitary over in the second T20.
For the World XI, apart from Perera, it was David Miller (32) and Darren Sammy (24), that had any meaningful scores. But even those didn’t come at a rate fast enough to impact the outcome of the match.
Pakistan eventually won by 34 runs to edge out the evenly contested series 2-1 against the World XI. But the biggest conquest was the message sent out to the rest of the world that Pakistan is ready to host international cricket.
It was this that had been the goal of the series, and it was this that the Independence Cup resoundingly achieved. Bring on Sri Lanka, West Indies – and the rest of the world.