Prodigious leg-spinner Shadab Khan announced his arrival by bamboozling West Indies in the opening T20I of Pakistan’s tour of the Caribbean.
Shadab’s superlative bowling figures read 3 for 7, with each of those seven runs being singles as West Indies struggled to get off the blocks after opting to bat first. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed saw sense in starting with two spinners – Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez – to get an early stranglehold on the game. The pair bowled flat and straight, making it tough for the openers to chance their arms.
Yet, it was a piece of brilliance in the field from Ahmed Shehzad that brought the first breakthrough. Lewis tucked the ball towards deep midwicket and looked to get back to strike, but a flat throw from Shehzad struck the stumps and caught the opener short of his crease. Pakistan earned a stroke of luck shortly, as Marlon Samuels was wrongly adjudged leg before wicket off Imad Wasim in the seventh over. West Indies desperately needed a move to put a lid on Pakistan’s domination, but that was not to be.
The youngster had earned a reputation of foxing batsmen with wrong ‘uns and he didn’t hesitate to use the same ploy in Pakistan colours. The second ball of his first over pitched outside off and turned into the right-handed Chadwick Walton, who clearly didn’t read the variation. He was struck on the pad in front the stumps and sent on his way for an 18-ball 18. Two balls later, Shadab had his second via odd shot selection and execution from Lendl Simmons. Up against an innocuous leg-break delivery, Simmons went for a sweep shot, but turned his head away at the last moment. Expectedly, he couldn’t middle the ball and ended up inside edging it onto the stumps.
With four wickets down and just 38 runs on the board, West Indies went for a throw of a die. Out came Sunil Narine, ahead of Rovman Powell and Carlos Brathwaite. Narine’s arrival coincided with Wahab Riaz’s, who peppered him with short balls first up. Narine had no response but to duck for cover. In the second delivery of the following over, Shadab’s googly gobbled up another batsman. Narine, who saw the spinner as an opportunity to chance his arm – the sort of mentality he was sent up the order for – ended his brief stay at the crease. He skied a slog sweep straight down Imad Wasim at long-on.
Wickets came in heaps for Pakistan as Powell too perished in the next over, falling to Hassan Ali. Shadab should’ve had his fourth when Kieron Pollard was lured into heaving at a tossed up delivery. The resulting top-edge, however, was spilled by Kamran Akmal at backward point. Despite the missed chance, Shadab finished with figures he will remember for a lifetime.
The first sign of resistence came from the pair of Brathwaite and Pollard, who added 25 runs off 32 balls for the seventh wicket. The runs trickled in slowly during the partnership, but it arrested the slide and gave West Indies an outside chance of finishing with a flourish.
For West Indies to make a game out of the fixture, they needed early wickets. With two comeback men – Shehzad and Akmal – opening the batting, they would’ve fancied their chances. But the two men, who enjoyed successful seasons in PSL – gave the visitors the sort of breezy start that distanced West Indies from a favourable result.
Both openers fell inside the batting powerplay, but Pakistan still held the aces in chase. Once Mohammad Hafeez fell cheaply in the ninth over, Babar Azam and Shoiab Malik came together to bat sensibly and gnaw away at the deficit. Despite not taking too many risks, the pair scored briskly in their 46-run stand for the fourth wicket. After batting patiently for most parts of his innings, Azam slowly began to pick up boundaries to seal the game off, but Holder cut short his endeavour in the 15th over.
However, with only 17 to get from the last five overs, the task for Malik and Sarfraz was fairly simple. They eventually took the team over the line in the 18th over to gain a 1-0 lead in the series.
Brief Scores: West Indies 111/8 in 20 overs (Carlos Brathwaite 34*; Shadab Khan 3-7) lost to Pakistan 115/4 in 17.1 overs (Shoaib Malik 38*, Babar Azam 29; Jason Holder 2-27) by six wickets.