While the IPL is slowly simmering into an exciting tournament this year, with a lot of close finishes, already notching up a string of good performances, the two international games this year weren’t so bereft of action either. In fact, three out of the five top performances this week have been picked up from the two ODIs between Pakistan and West Indies.
There were numerous IPL performances that dazzled our senses this week as well, such as the bowling performances of Rashid Khan, Krunal Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the batting performances of Manish Pandey, Nitish Rana, Kieron Pollard, Gautam Gambhir and AB de Villiers. However, giving precedence to international games over IPL matches only seemed fair and logical.
Pakistan’s ODI line-up proved to be a little too hot to handle for West Indies and rightly so after they came from a game down to take the series 2-1.
#1 Babar Azam
Azam is being touted as Pakistan’s next big thing and he is showing why. One of the fastest ODI batsmen to 1000 runs, he showed his class with a 132-ball 125 having walked in at 16 for 1 in the second ODI against West Indies, in Guyana. His innings that had seven fours and three sixes ensured Pakistan posted an impressive 282 in their 50 overs, with Imad Wasim (another impressive young all-rounder) the next highest scorer with a 35-ball 43.
The icing on the cake was the fact that he was unbeaten guiding Pakistan to a good score.
Babar added 69 for the third wicket with Hafeez. And then after a minor blip which saw them rile at 128 for 4, when Pakistan were in a spot of bother, steadied the ship by adding 55 for the fifth wicket with Sarfraz Ahmed, who was at the helm in an interesting move for the future of Pakistan cricket.
Imad and Babar gave the innings the vital push that it needed, adding 99 for the sixth wicket, unbeaten, in 68 balls. West Indies were all out for 208 conceding a 74-run victory to Pakistan. Babar picked the Player of the Match. This was the 22-year old’s fifth century in just 26 innings, with his ODI average at a very impressive 55.
#2 Shoaib Malik
Malik continues to show his value to the Pakistan team scoring a century in a winning run-chase. Pakistan were in more than a spot of bother at 36 for 3 in the ninth over chasing 234, in the third ODI against West Indies, the series decider in Guyana. Walking in at No.5, Malik added 113 for the fourth wicket with Mohammad Hafeez chipping in with 81 off just 86 balls. Hafeez also bowled 7 economical overs giving away just 21.
Malik then added another 87 unbeaten runs with his skipper Sarfraz Ahmed who contributed just 24 of those runs. Malik’s 111-ball innings was an epitome of discipline with 10 fours and 2 sixes coming at opportune moments. Malik’s strike-rate of 90.99 also ensured that the pressure never really built up during the chase despite the initial hurdle. This was the 35-year old’s 9th ODI century.
#3 Hasan Ali
The 23-year old medium-fast bowler produced his best ODI figures of 5 for 38 against West Indies in the second ODI in Guyana. Pakistan posted an impressive 282 in their 50 overs and Hasan Ali ensured West Indies never even had a sniff at any point in the chase. Ali picked up the wickets of Shai Hope and Kieran Powell in consecutive overs early in the innings.
He then returned to break the 58-run seventh wicket partnership by getting the wicket of Ashley Nurse who managed to score a 43-ball 44. Later, he shut down the West Indies resistance by picking the wickets of A Joseph and Jason Holder, the top scorer of the innings with 68, in the same over to finish with his second five-wicket haul. Pakistan won the match by 74 runs levelling the series before going on to win the third ODI.
#4 Samuel Badree
West Indies would have dearly wished Badree was playing for them against Pakistan. The West Indies spinner bowled probably the spell of the IPL so far getting a hat-trick in his second over, the third over of the innings, in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s match against Mumbai Indians. RCB only had 142 on board which at the Chinnaswamy was a paltry total for Mumbai Indians to chase down.
But Badree ensured it wasn’t a walk in the park, with the wickets of Parthiv Patel, pinch-hitter Mitchell McClenaghan and then the skipper, Rohit Sharma. MI were 8 for 4 at the end of the third over and it needed a super-human effort from out-of-form Kieron Pollard to see MI home. Badree finished his spell with another wicket, that of in-form Nitish Rana to finish with match figures of 4-1-9-4.
MI stumbled to 33 for 5 after 8 overs. But Pollard added 93 for the sixth wicket with Krunal Pandya who scored a 30-ball 37 before finishing the match off with his brother Hardik Pandya in the 19th over.
#5 Andrew Tye
Gujarat Lions tasted their first success this IPL thanks to wildcard Western Australia bowler, Andrew Tye, who picked the second hat-trick of the IPL, against Rising Pune Supergiant, registering a rare IPL event, where two hat-tricks were taken on the same day. Tye bowled a sensational final over on a flat batting wicket at Rajkot, where he gave away just four runs and picked up the wickets of Ankit Sharma, the well-set Manoj Tiwary and then Shardul Thakur as Pune mustered 171 in their 20 overs.
Tye ended with match figures of 5-17 in his 4 overs. Earlier, Tye had also picked up the big wickets of Ben Stokes and Rahul Tripathi who got Pune off to a bright start with a 17-ball 33. Gujarat chased down the target easily scoring 172 in just 18 overs, thanks to contributions from four out of their top five batsmen, Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith scoring 49 and 47 respectively, adding 94 in just 53 balls for the opening stand.