Pakistan entered Super Four stage of Asia Cup 2022 with a 155-run thrashing of Hong Kong in what was a knockout match in Group A at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday.
After sparkling knocks from Mohammad Rizwan (78 not out off 57 balls), Fakhar Zaman (53 off 41 balls) and Khushdil Shah (35 not out off 15 balls) carried Pakistan to a daunting 193/2, Hong Kong were blown away by pacers and spinners to be bundled out for 38 in 10.5 overs, their lowest T20I total against a Full Member side, giving the Babar Azam-led side their biggest-ever win by runs in T20Is.
None of the Hong Kong batters got into double figures except for extras (10), as their batting scorecard resembled a mobile number. Spin twins, leg-spinner Shadab Khan (4/8) and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz (3/7) shared seven wickets between themselves while pacers Naseem Shah and Shahnawaz Dahani took 2/7 and 1/7 respectively.
The comprehensive win also means that Pakistan qualifies for the Super Four stage from Group A while Hong Kong crashed out of the competition. It also sets up another India-Pakistan showdown in the Super Four match in Dubai on Sunday, exactly a week after meeting in the first Group A match of the tournament.
Despite Rizwan and Zaman slamming fifties, Pakistan were in danger of getting a low score on a slow, sticky Sharjah pitch as they were 116/1 in 15 overs. But Rizwan, Zaman and Khushdil plundered 77 runs in the last five overs to get a winning score for Pakistan.
In the last ten overs, they got a whopping 129 runs after being 64/1 at the halfway stage. They were also helped by the fact that Hong Kong bowling gave away 18 extras, including 17 wides, despite starting well in the first ten overs.
Off-spinner Ehsan Khan struck a huge blow when captain Babar Azam danced down the pitch to chip him through the leg-side. But the ball, slower in pace, dipped on him and failed to keep it down, giving Ehsan a low catch to his right.
Zaman got going with a brace of boundaries against Haroon Arshad, while Rizwan hit two boundaries through the off-side off Ayush Shukla to push Pakistan’s scoring rate.
Post power-play, Rizwan and Fakhar struggled to break the shackles as the slow and low nature of the pitch came into play and had to rely on strike rotation. There were mistimed shots too as both batters were unable to time their shots well, with Hong Kong bowlers showing discipline in their lines and lengths.
The first signs of change in gears from Pakistan came when Rizwan danced down the pitch and lofted Mohammad Ghazanfar straight down the ground for a six. He then took a boundary off Ghazanfar before reaching his fifty on the first ball of the 14th over off Yasim Murtaza.
Zaman joined the boundary-hitting party by swatting Ghazanfar over deep mid-wicket for six and slapped Murtaza through extra cover for a boundary. He brought up his fifty dancing down the pitch and swinging a Murtaza delivery high over deep mid-wicket.
Ehsan got a major breakthrough on the first ball of his second spell when Zaman sliced a low full toss straight to point, departing for 53 off 41 balls and breaking a huge 116-run stand off 80 balls for the second wicket.
Khushdil upped the pressure on Hong Kong bowlers by hitting a six-over mid-off off a misfiring Shukla. The left-hander took Aizaz Khan to the cleaners for applying finishing touches to Pakistan’s innings, slamming four magnificent sixes over long-on, deep mid-wicket, straight down the ground and fine leg regions in the final over yielding 29 runs.
In reply, Nizakat Khan began well by crunching a driving square of the wicket off Shahnawaz Dahani. But Naseem Shah took him out in the next over, chipping straight to cover. Four balls later, Shah castled Babar Hayat for a four-ball duck. More trouble followed for Hong Kong as Dahani bounced out Yasim Murtaza and mid-on ran forward to complete a low catch.
From there, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz took over to dismantle Hong Kong’s challenge with the bat. Shadab bamboozled with his googly, taking out Aizaz Khan and Haroon Arshad. Nawaz, on the other hand, took out Kinchit Shah, Scott McKechnie and Zeeshan Ali.
Post drinks break, Shadab’s wrong’un castled Ayush Shukla and then trapped Mohammad Ghazanfar lbw to complete a resounding thrashing of Hong Kong and enter the Super Four stage in style.
Brief scores: Pakistan 193/2 in 20 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 78 not out, Fakhar Zaman 53; Ehsan Khan 2-28) beat Hong Kong 38 all out in 10.4 overs (Nizakat Khan 8, Shadab Khan 4-8, Mohammad Nawaz 3-5) by 155 runs