Imam-ul-Haq’s century goes in vain as Adam Zampa leads disciplined bowling attack to tie Pakistan down
Australia 313 for 7 (Head 101, McDermott 55, Green 40*, Rauf 2-44, Zahir 2-59) beat Pakistan 225 (Imam 103, Babar 57, Zampa 4-38, Head 2-35) by 88 runs
Chasing 314, Pakistan rued a slow start and struggled against Australia’s spinners in dewy conditions under lights to be bowled out for 225 in the 46th over in what was a return to the format for Australia and Pakistan since July.
Imam and Babar paid the price for a cautious 96-run second-wicket partnership, off 118 balls, where they appeared to be in cruise control only for the run rate to keep increasing.
In the first ODI in Lahore since 2015, which was Babar’s debut, the Pakistan skipper became the second-quickest after Hashim Amla to reach 4000 ODI runs and he achieved the milestone in style with a boundary off Swepson amid fans chanting his name while waving their lighted smartphones.
Eyeing the long haul, Babar knocked the ball around and hit the odd boundary through masterful precision. After a gorgeous square drive off Swepson, he survived a shout for lbw with the decision upheld much to the chagrin of skipper Aaron Finch, continuing Australia’s poor use of DRS from the Test series.
But Swepson, finding a groove he lacked during his Test initiation, would not be denied with a first ODI wicket when he trapped Babar lbw in the next over with a full legbreak that was unsuccessfully reviewed.
With the ball skidding on the surface, Head’s terrific match continued with a handy spell mid-innings, and his nagging offbreaks accounted for Saud Shakeel and Iftikhar Ahmed. It capped a commanding performance for Head, who played his first ODI since November 2018.
Having struggled during Australia’s historic Test series victory, averaging just 22.67, Head was in sparkling form from the get-go as he dominated a Pakistan attack desperately missing the speed and skill of spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was rested after a heavy workload during the Test series.
It was Head’s second ODI century – both have been against Pakistan – and he showcased his liking for the top of the order to boost his average as opener to 45.69 from 13 matches, which is well above his overall mark of 36.
He dominated a 110-run opening stand with Finch and may have heightened the pressure on the struggling Australia captain’s long-term place at the top. Having laboured through the Australian summer with a knee injury, Finch once again lacked fluency in his first ODI since December 2020 to make an unconvincing 23 off 36.
Their total appeared par for the course but it proved more than enough as Head completed his comeback in style to lead Australia to their tenth straight ODI win over Pakistan.
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth