Babar Azam scored 84 off 100 balls with 4 boundaries and 1 six    Getty Images
Babar Azam scored 84 off 100 balls with 4 boundaries and 1 six Getty Images

Babar Azam proved his mettle once again when he became the fifth fastest to 1,000 runs in ODI cricket, a landmark which he completed in only his 21st innings. Babar s gritty knock of 84 held the Pakistani innings together, as the visitors set a challenging 264 run target against Australia in the third ODI at WACA, Perth. The tourists once again had several batsmen remain guilty of not converting their starts into big scores. Put in to bat first, Pakistan, however, conjured up a total of 263 for 7, thanks to half-centuries from Babar (84) and Sharjeel Khan (50), thus setting up a good platform for their side to push for yet another victory on one of their favourite venues in Australia.

Pakistan have so far won 4 out of their 6 ODIs at the WACA, Perth, against Australia, and if their spinners continue to keep the hosts batsmen under the pump, the visitors can fancy taking a crucial lead in this ongoing five-match series which is currently levelled at 1-1. On a track assisting extra bounce, scoring runs remained easy, and Pakistani batsmen did not face any particular troubles against the Australian bowlers barring Josh Hazlewood. On a track where batsmen made merry, Hazlewood proved his class once again with a measly spell of 10-0-32-3.

Out of his 60 balls in this innings, more than half were dots. Indeed, Hazlewood is the best Australian bowler at the moment.

FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Pakistan vs Australia, 3rd ODI at Perth

Early on, Pakistan made a brisk start thanks to Sharjeel. The explosive batsman did not show initial nervousness as he hammered Billy Stanlake for 3 fours and 1 six in the fourth over of the innings, sky-rocketing the run-rate to 9 an over as Pakistan reached 36 for no loss. However, Hazlewood pegged Pakistan back by trapping their stand-in captain Mohammad Hafeez, who was adjudged leg-before by umpire Shamshuddin even before Australia could get into the full appeal.

Sharjeel teamed up with Babar to revive Pakistan from the early blow, but the two batsmen scored at a slow rate. They added another 49 runs for the second wicket in about 12 overs, and had Sharjeel not launched an all-out attack against Travis Head in the over he was dismissed, their stand would have been deemed poor. Sharjeel and Babar trudged along with singles and a few rare doubles, but in the 16th over from Head, the Southpaw decided to have a crack at the bowler.

Sharjeel hammered three consecutive boundaries and brought up his fifty. But soon after reaching the landmark, he chopped one on to his wicket. Shoaib Malik arrived with an aggressive intent, but not before Asad Shafiq was caught at short third man in the 20th over for 5.

Malik clobbered a huge six off Head when it had started appearing that the Australian spinner would emulate what the Pakistanis have been doing so far. Malik also showed exemplary footwork, but missed out on a deserving half-century once again, becoming the first international wicket for Stanlake after scoring 39.

Babar, meanwhile, went about his job with usual calmness. His idea was to provide the anchor so that the others could bat around him. He added 63 with Malik for the fifth wicket, and with Umar Akmal (51-ball 39), Babar added another 60. Babar deserved a century, but in order to accelerate late in the innings, he pulled one straight to Peter Handscomb, who completed a good, low catch at deep midwicket.

Towards the end, Pakistan hobbled as Umar, despite getting his eye in, failed to look for quick runs. The running between the wickets remained poor as Umar on one occasion declined a second run to Babar, in spite of the latter being halfway through. Umar, however, hit the ‘shot of the innings’ off Faulkner, when he creamed the bowler with an inside-out stroke over the cover region. And it was not a just a regular hit for a six; the ball travelled a considerable distance into the stands.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 263 for 7 in 50 overs (Sharjeel Khan 50, Babar Azam 84, Shoaib Malik 39, Umar Akmal 39; Josh Hazlewood 3 for 32, Travis Head 2 for 65) vs Australia.