Sarfraz Ahmed led the way and Shoaib Malik gave yet another indication of what he is still capable of in white-ball cricket as their half-centuries set up a 48-run win for Pakistan over Scotland in the first of two Twenty20 Internationals on Tuesday 12 June in Edinburgh.
Fresh from the famous six-run win over England in their one-off one-day international, Scotland were confident against Pakistan, the No.1 T20I side in the world. But Ahmed’s 89* in 49 balls and Malik’s 27-ball 53 took the visiting side to 204/4. Scotland could only get to 156/6 as the Pakistan spinners, mainly, kept them quiet.
“I am happy. We batted well, we got some partnerships going, so important for one of your top four to go on, and Saffie (Ahmed) got some runs today,” said Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach. “All the other guys chipped in and you’ve got to say Shoaib Malik’s innings was outstanding. We started out a little bit sloppy with the ball but after that we were good.”
This was the first time Ahmed crossed 20 since the tour started with a first-class game against Kent back in late April. Even though Pakistan won the one-off Test against Ireland and then drew the two-Test series in England 1-1, Ahmed has failed to get runs.
On the day, though, “he was the difference in the end,” as Kyle Coetzer, the Scotland captain, said after the game.
“Very relieved, he’s played beautifully today. He hasn’t been playing badly, to be honest. For him to get some runs was fantastic,” said Arthur of his captain, who batted at No.4.
📹 | Michael Leask looks ahead to tomorrow's @BrightoPaintsPK T20 series decider and thanks the fans for the amazing atmosphere over the last two days at @GrangeCC #followscotland🏴 pic.twitter.com/cqQL2ZT9po— Cricket Scotland (@CricketScotland) June 12, 2018
“I think Saffie plays well at four or five, I really do. Perhaps four is one too high in ODI cricket, he has to keep wickets and everything like that. Certainly four or five is the way to go, and in Twenty20 cricket he’s done exceptionally well at four for us.”
Ahmed, the Player of the Match, was understandably happy to play a key role in his team’s win.
“Good thing is that the team is winning. I am backing myself and the coaches have been helping me. T20 is a different format and you take it ball after ball if you are not in form,” he said. “We came here yesterday, could not practice because of rain, but the boys did well. If you are the No.1 team, the pressure is on you when you are playing teams like Scotland and Ireland.”
While the batsmen set the game up, it was the spinners – Mohammad Nawaz (1/22) and Shadab Khan (2/25) – who ensured victory was Pakistan’s.
“I am very pleased. This tour has been so good for the younger players. They have evolved, first in Test cricket and now ... (Hussain) Talat comes in, Asif (Ali) comes in, our white-ball squad comes in, and everybody just gels well. Everybody knows their roles and it’s going very well for us at the moment,” gushed Arthur.
From Scotland’s point of view, after the high of beating England, the No.1 ODI team in the world, it was a disappointing result.
“We’re gutted, which is a great sign of where our team is at,” said Grant Bradburn, their coach. “We backed ourselves to compete and win against the No.1 team in the world and we’re disappointed we didn’t manage that.
“It’s definitely encouraging that we were competitive for much of the match but we’re not just about competing. We were 50 runs short and I sense there was 30 runs in the bowling and 20 runs with the bat that we left out there.”
The second and final T20I will be played on Wednesday, after which Scotland will head to the Netherlands to play a T20I tri-series against the hosts and Ireland.