You get a chance to play international cricket at 34, becoming the second-oldest debutant for your country. You are hit for six second ball. What do you do? You dismiss three key batsmen for just 23 runs. You are then called on to finish the game. With the bat. Understandably, you are tied down. But with six needed off six, you loft over extra cover for four. You think you have more than pulled your weight as a debutant. You have, but it is not over yet. It comes down to the last ball. One run needed. Everyone is in the circle. No sweat. You go big over mid-off, so big that you clear the rope. Zulfiqar Babar
, welcome to international cricket.
It should not have come down to the last ball the way Shahid Afridi
sensibly steered the chase from 86 for 5. After that became 116 for 6, he did it with the tail for company. He made 46 off 27, but barring the 27th delivery, he hardly hit a desperate, reckless stroke. With eight needed off 11 though, he tried to seal it with a straight six, and mishit to long-on.
West Indies sensed a chance. Babar played out a few dots. Despite that early boundary in the last over, Saeed Ajmal was run out off the fifth with the scores tied, before Babar roared one final time.
The way they bowled and fielded, West Indies were lucky to have taken it down to the last ball. Shannon Gabriel took three wickets, but he crumbled under pressure each time he was called upon to deliver. Umar Amin
, who played a blinder on T20 debut, took three fours off Gabriel's first over, with a flick and two pulls.
Amin then took Samuel Badree apart on a turning pitch. Never giving the ball a chance to spin, he repeatedly stepped out to loft Badree down the ground. When the bowler dropped it short, Amin pulled. When he overpitched,
Amin drove. Even as Amin was toying with West Indies, the hosts were striking at the other end.
The Pakistan top order fell to miscalculated hits, but Amin's brilliance meant the asking-rate was always under control. That still didn't stop Amin from walking out to Samuels and getting stumped to make it 86 for 5.
Afridi took over now, striking Samuels first ball for six over long-off and drilling the third to the extra cover rope. Thereafter, he settled down into cruise mode, rotating the strike, picking the odd boundary and also lofting Sunil Narine to become the first man to reach 400 international sixes. He did everything right except the stroke on the ball he got out to, but then, it was to be the debutant's day in the end.
Babar, and the other Pakistan spinners, had shocked West Indies initially on the turner but the hosts recovered and then took apart the fast bowlers to post a challenging total. Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard
came together at 42 for 4 and put on 56 before Darren Sammy
cracked 30 off 14. Pakistan's slow bowlers did their job, taking 5 for 74 in 14 overs but the fast bowlers, missing the yorkers too often, disappeared for 1 for 73 in six. Mohammad Hafeez, who opened the bowling and dismissed the openers, gave himself just two overs.
Babar squared up and bowled Lendl Simmons with his fourth delivery and in his next over, found himself in the way of a powerful hit from Samuels, but managed to hold on. Samuels had been cutting Mohammad Irfan for boundaries amid all the wickets.
Bravo and Pollard, although not always in control, rotated the strike, a refreshing thing coming from a West Indies pair. Bravo was quick to hit with the turn through the off side, and Pollard made sure he put away the rare half-volleys for boundaries. Sammy went after the fast bowlers as he and Pollard looted 53 in four overs. As Sammy said after the game, 152 should have been defended on that pitch, but Babar was to have the perfect debut.