Sports

Babar hammers Australian attack to clinch series for Pakistan



Australia have offered no excuses after being outclassed by nine wickets in their ODI series decider in Lahore, pummelled by another batting masterclass from Pakistan’s dazzling double act Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq.

“We were outplayed – it’s as simple as that,” shrugged Australian captain Aaron Finch, who, in gloomy contrast, posted consecutive ducks for the first time in his international career on Saturday.

Captain Babar raced to a second consummate century in three days while Imam tormented the visitors yet again with 89 not out as the hosts eased past Australia’s wholly inadequate 210 all out with 73 balls to spare.

Their unbroken second-wicket partnership of 190 powered Pakistan to a 2-1 series win after losing the first match on Tuesday, leaving a cricket-mad nation ecstatic about its first home ODI series victory over Australia since 1988.

Babar’s unbeaten 105 off 115 balls made him the player of the series, a world away from the continuing struggles of his counterpart Finch, who was trapped plumb LBW by Haris Rauf without scoring.

Australian cricketer Aaron Finch

(Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“Obviously, my performance hasn’t been up to scratch, there’s no doubting that. It’s frustrating,” conceded Finch.

Finch, though, praised his team, who were without a hatful of key players.

“I’m really proud of how the boys tried their hearts out,” he said.

“There were more positives than negatives throughout in all three games. We were just on the receiving end of a couple of great knocks from Babar and Imam.”

In the decider, only Alex Carey (56 off 61 balls) and some late heroics from Sean Abbott (49 off 40 balls) ensured Australia fended off calamity after Finch had lost a third straight toss and been asked to bat.

At 8-162 in the 35th over, they’d even been in danger of a lowest ever ODI total against Pakistan until Abbott cracked six fours and one six in a late show of resistance.

Pakistan then waltzed it once Travis Head had spilled a straightforward chance at short midwicket, gifted by Babar off Jason Behrendorff when he’d scored just one.

The reprieved maestro then reprised his majestic hundred, which had decorated Pakistan’s record ODI chase on Thursday. 

Between them, Babar (276 runs for the series) and Imam (298) have scored four hundreds in five days.

Babar Azam batting for Pakistan

(Harry Trump-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Left-hander Imam’s excellence, having taken Australia for four tons in the Tests and ODIs, would have earned him a third hundred of the 50-over series if not for his captain’s brilliance getting him there first.

Australia had earlier slumped to 2-0 in the second over after Head was bowled by a Shaheen Afridi full toss on the first ball of the innings.

Finch’s woes, in his first ODIs since December 2020, continue as Australia build towards the 2023 50-over World Cup, with the 35-year-old skipper having scored 23, 0 and 0 in this series.

It was the first time in his 228-match international career spanning five Tests, 135 ODIs, and 88 T20s that Finch has posted consecutive ducks.

When Marnus Labuschagne (four) was caught at slip in the sixth over, Australia were reeling at 3-6, which became 5-67 when in-form Ben McDermott (36) was caught at cover from a leading edge.

Carey combined with Cameron Green (34) for a crucial 81-run stand, but there was still the alarming prospect that they might not get past the 8-165 they posted at the SCG in 1990.

Pakistan quick Mohammad Wasim starred with 3-40, while Rauf (3-39) and Afridi (2-40) were also crucial in the demolition job.

It was a far cry from Australia’s batting displays in the first two matches, when the visitors posted totals of 7-313 and 8-348 and their bowling attack was easy meat, with only Nathan Ellis’ dismissal of Fakhar Zaman for 17 to cheer.

© AAP



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