Babar launches Aussie attack to land series for Pakistan

Australia offered no apologies after being outplayed by nine wickets in their ODI Series decision in Lahore, beaten 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 Australia captain Aaron Finch, who, in stark contrast, posted back-to-back ducks for the first time in his international career on Saturday.

Captain Babar raced to a consummate second century in three days while Imam tormented the visitors once more with 89 not knocked out as the hosts overtook Australia’s woefully inadequate 210 with 73 balls to spare.

Their unbroken 190 second-wicket partnership saw Pakistan win a 2-1 series after losing the opener on Tuesday, leaving a cricket-mad nation delighted with their first home ODI series win against Australia since 1988.

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

(Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“Obviously my performance wasn’t up to par, there’s no doubt about that. It’s frustrating,” Finch conceded.

Finch, however, praised his team, which lacked a handful of key players.

“I’m really proud of how the boys put their hearts to the test,” he said.

“There were more positives than negatives in all three games. We were just on the receiving end of some big hits from Babar and Imam.

In the decision, only Alex Carey (56 from 61 balls) and some late heroics from Sean Abbott (49 from 40 balls) allowed Australia to fend off the calamity after Finch wasted a third straight shot and was asked to to hit.

At 8-162 in the 35th, they had even been in danger of an all-time lowest ODI tally against Pakistan until Abbott cracked six fours and a six in a late show of resistance.

Pakistan then waltzed it away once Travis Head had knocked down a direct chance at the short midwicket, gifted by Jason Behrendorff’s Babar when he had scored just one.

The pardoned maestro then resumed his majestic hundred, which had decorated Pakistan’s ODI pursuit record on Thursday.

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

Babar Azam at bat for Pakistan

(Harry Trump-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

The southpaw Imam’s excellence, having won Australia for four tons in Tests and ODIs, would have earned him a third of the 50-plus series if not for the brilliance of his captain who had it brought first.

Australia had earlier fallen to 2-0 in the second after Head was knocked down by a full throw from Shaheen Afridi on the first pitch of the set.

Finch’s woes, in his first ODIs since December 2020, continue as Australia prepare for the 2023 50th World Cup, with the 35-year-old skipper having scored 23.0 and 0 in that series.

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

When Marnus Labuschagne (four) was caught sliding in the sixth, Australia were in shock at 3-6, which became 5-67 when in-form Ben McDermott (36) was caught from cover by an edge of attack.

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

Speedy Pakistani Mohammad Wasim starred with 3-40, while Rauf (3-39) and Afridi (2-40) also played crucial roles in the demolition work.

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


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