Sparkling knocks from Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman and Khushdil Shah carried Pakistan to a daunting 193/2 against Hong Kong in a must-win Asia Cup Group A match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday.
Despite Rizwan (78 not out) and Zaman (53) 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 (35 not out off 15 balls) plundered 77 runs in the last five overs to get a massive 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.
Brief scores: Pakistan 193/2 in 20 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 78 not out, Fakhar Zaman 53; Ehsan Khan 2-28) against Hong Kong