Despite UAE's gallant fight, Pakistan come up trumps
Pakistan withstood an initial scare to outclass UAE by 7 wickets at the Shere Bangla Stadium in Mirpur. The margin of victory will not reveal the excitement in the contest as the Pakistanis were given a solid work-out and had to dig deep to prevail over a spirited UAE side.
Earlier, captain Shahid Afridi lost the toss on a slightly different surface and his UAE counterpart decided to bat first. Amjad Javed hoped that a change of tactics would result in a better outcome. Wahab Riaz made way for debutante Mohammad Nawaz, a spinning all-rounder which suggested a shift in strategy.
Naturally, the Pakistanis would have believed that they could restrict UAE to a low total. And the start certainly was along those lines. Even though he could not replicate the extravagant swing that he got against India, Mohammad Amir was accurate.
Alongside Mohammad Sami and Mohammad Irfan, he troubled the top-order relentlessly. The UAE batsmen found themselves in a bit of a hole at 12-3 from 4 overs. Rohan Mustafa, Muhammad Kaleem and Mohammad Shahzad could not do much against the new-ball which left the middle-order under enormous pressure.
Usman Mushtaq hung around for a while Shaiman Anwar was severe on the loose deliveries. The fact that plenty of edges went to the boundary would irritate the team management. Afridi brought himself early on in the match to stifle the run-rate. Soon, it was spin from both ends as Mohammad Nawaz found himself bowling in tandem with his captain.
Afridi broke the partnership with a fuller one. However, Muhammad Usman joined Anwar who began to take the attack to the opposition. The 36-year old who had an impressive 50-overs World Cup in Australia, whacked the maverick spinner for 3 consecutive boundaries.
But, he was deceived by the extra bounce from Irfan who reduced UAE to 72/5. In a precarious situation, Javed arrived at the crease and made his intent clear. He combined well with Usman and the duo counter-attacked without any inhibition.
UAE finished at 129 which was tricky for a shaky batting lineup like Pakistan. Apart from Mohammad Amir who finished with a parsimonious spell, the other bowlers were below par.
Pakistan’s chase got off to a horrible start as Javed's opening burst left them reeling at 17/3. Even though Sharjeel Khan received a terrible decision, Khurram Manzoor and Mohammad Hafeez had no one else to blame.
Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal steadied the ship by showing their experience. Malik shrugged off a nervous start before he started rotating the strike. The UAE fielders were electric and stopped quite a few of Akmal’s shots.
Once the 50 partnership was raised, both batsmen started flexing their muscles as they targeted Muhammad Naveed to bring down the required run-rate. Malik and Akmal hit a six each as the equation boiled down to 46 runs off the last five overs.
The pressure shifted drastically and could be observed from UAE’s body language. Mushtaq dropped a comfortable catch to reprieve Malik who rubbed salt into the wounds by smacking 10 runs off his next 2 deliveries.
The dew played its part too in the final few overs as the UAE bowlers struggled to grip the ball. Akmal capitalized on the loose bowling and ensured that his team cantered towards the chase.
Brief Score: UAE 129/6 (Anwar 46, Javed 27*, Amir 2-6); Pakistan 131/3 (Malik 63*, Akmal 50*, Javed 3-36)
Result: Pakistan won by 7 wickets