In a game that far exceeded its predecessor in electricity, intensity, quality and competitiveness, World XI edged Pakistan in a nerve-wracking contest that went down to the last two balls. Hashim Amla anchored a chase that seemed just out of World XI’s reach with an unbeaten 72 off 55 balls, but it was Thisara Perera, who delivered the knockout blow.
Walking in with his side needing 63 off the last five overs, Thisara displayed a level of clinical ruthlessness that Sri Lanka have lacked in recent times. He walloped five sixes in an unbeaten 19-ball 47 to complete the seven-wicket win, finishing with a humungous straight six off the second-last ball to keep the series alive and inflict Pakistan’s first-ever T20I defeat on home soil.
Pakistan’s innings centered around another partnership between Babar Azam and Ahmed Shehzad. It wasn’t quite the leviathan of Tuesday, but 59 runs off 45 balls was still a useful contribution that ensured the innings didn’t stutter through the middle overs. Ben Cutting once more came in for heavy punishment, conceding 52 off his four overs, but a bowling attack noticeably improved by Samuel Badree’s inclusion didn’t quite let Pakistan’s batsmen wreak havoc. In the end they still managed 174, though against the fireworks of Thisara, it was just within World XI’s reach.
Amla was the notable difference for World XI. He took advantage of his start and carried his bat right till the end, unlike in the first T20I where the visiting team hadn’t mustered up more than a bunch of cameos. Having an anchor allowed the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Faf du Plessis and Thisara enjoy a greater degree of freedom to play how they needed to in ensuring they kept abreast of the chase.
Badree’s inclusion for World XI would’ve been a sight for sore eyes, and he showed why he’s been a successful T20 bowler for franchises around the world. He not only conceded below eight an over but also picked the key wickets of Fakhar Zaman and Babar, meaning Pakistan could never quite build up the momentum for a final push.
These aren’t the best conditions for Morne Morkel to bowl in, but you couldn’t fault him for his effort. He mixed up his pace, varied his lengths and bowled to the conditions. He was the pick of the World XI bowlers, conceding just seven runs in his first three overs. He deserved not to have his figures spoilt, but suffered in his final over when Shoaib Malik took him for 13, leaving his end analysis a little more human again.
With 22 required off nine and Pakistan’s death bowlers no slouches, World XI’s hardest work still lay ahead of them. Thisara’s game bordered on the chancy and an opportunity came when he mistimed a slog. Malik, who possesses one of the safer pairs of hands among the Pakistan side, closed in at long-off, but couldn’t hold on. Thisara scampered two and smashed a six off the next delivery, denying the home side a win that would have sealed the series.
World XI keep the series alive with this last-gasp win. The decider will also be played in Lahore on Friday. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)