Babar Azam slammed his 6th ODI ton to help Pakistan build a strong total (Image courtesy: Getty)
Babar Azam slammed his 6th ODI ton to help Pakistan build a strong total (Image courtesy: Getty)

Cometh ODIs. Cometh Babar Azam. Two days short of his 23rd birthday, Babar slammed his sixth ODI hundred to propel Pakistan to 292 for 6. Babar s 103 came from 131 balls, consisting 5 fours. He received ample support from the experienced Shoaib Malik who blazed away to a 61-ball 80. Despite late wickets Sri Lanka, aided by some poor fielding, could not contain Pakistan under 280.

Almost 3 months after their Champions Trophy triumph, Pakistan played their first ODI and the venue Dubai isn t where they enjoy playing a lot in ODIs. They have lost 9 and won 6, and it is after almost 2 years that they are playing at this venue.

Sri Lanka put Pakistan in and got off to a favourable start. Ahmed Shehzad, after playing 11 dots, eventually lobbed one to square-leg for a 12-ball duck in the fourth over, off Lahiru Gamage. Fakhar Zaman started from where he had left at The Oval.

The 16th over of the innings witnessed a battle between Akila Dananjaya s guts and Zaman s aggression. Zaman looked for a slog off the first ball but could not connect. The next ball was a slider and the southpaw managed to get his bat down on time. Then came the boom. Dananjaya paid for the extra flight as Zaman smacked it to 82 metres away, executing a perfect slog-sweep. Then comes the googly, which beat the batsman in the air and off the surface to find its way to the timber. Zaman was gone for a brisk 45-ball 43.

After the 64-run stand with Zaman, Babar weaved another steady 49-run stand with Mohammad Hafeez. The latter did the bulk of the scoring. On the fifth ball of the 28th over, Jeffrey Vandersay almost had Hafeez walking back when the experienced Pakistani miscued a sweep. An inside-edge saved him from walking off LBW. However, the wait wasn t too long for the leg-spinner. Off the next ball, Hafeez hit the long-hop from the bowler to Thisara Perera at long-on. The Sri Lankan all-rounder completed a good running catch.

This united Shoaib and Babar at the crease, and there was no stopping since. Pakistan did have their stoke of luck. Babar attempted a paddle off Dananjaya in the 32nd over; the ball had kissed the glove to the keeper s gloves but umpire called it wide . The confident Sri Lankans had wasted their review earlier and could not use their DRS.

To inflict more woes, a few balls later Shoaib deposited Dananjaya over long-on to bring up his 100th six in ODIs. There was no stopping Shoaib. He blazed to his 40th ODI fifty in his 253rd appearance. He belted a 61-ball 81 in the 139-run fourth wicket stand that came off just 114 balls much to the glee of his wife Sania Mirza who cheered every stroke off the Pakistani stalwart s willow.

Shoaib looked set for his 10th century in this format, but fell while trying to accelerate in the 47th over. They went on to lose 3 wickets in aspan of 8 balls when Sarfraz Ahmed and Babar fell trying to slog the Sri Lankan bowlers out of the park. Suranga Lakmal finished with 2 wickets, but Imad Wasim and Hasan Ali denied Sri Lanka any advantage and ensured Pakistan breached the 290-mark.

The duo struck a 10-ball 23 run stand and some ordinary fielding by Sri Lanka helped them. To continue their UAE honeymoon, Sri Lanka will have to bat out of their skins against a strong Pakistani bowling line-up.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 292 for 6 in 50 overs (Fakhar Zaman 43, Babar Azam 103, Shoaib Malik 81; Suranga Lakmal 2 for 47) vs Sri Lanka.