A solid performance by Pakistan with bat and ball saw them record a comprehensive 84-run victory over Scotland, sealing the T20I series 2-0.
Pakistan came into the series ranked No.1 in the MRF Tyres T20I standings, and their class was evident as they overpowered the Saltires. The gap in quality was most clear when Pakistan were bowling, and there were a bevvy of outstanding figures.
Left-arm seamer Usman Khan was miserly, removing both openers George Munsey and Kyle Coetzer for a combined single in a new-ball burst of 2/4 in two overs. In between their dismissals, the equally parsimonious Fahim Ashraf removed the dangerous Richie Berrington for 20, and Scotland never recovered, Ashraf ending proceedings with two more wickets to end with a superlative 3/5 in 2.3 overs.
In truth, Scotland lost their heads somewhat in the face of a mounting asking rate and some excellent bowling. Whirlwind leggie Shadab Khan deserves credit for his 1/17 from four overs which kept the pressure up, and three run-outs told of scrambled minds. They eventually succumbed to 82 all out, less than half way to their target of 167.
Earlier, Pakistan had been boosted up to 166 by a superb Shoaib Malik cameo, the experienced all-rounder smashing a 22-ball 49 to revive a stuttering innings.
Opening pair Ahmed Shehzad and Fakhar Zaman had set the platform with their 60-run partnership, but Scotland, who put on an improved display with the ball, ensured they didn’t race away. That the association lasted for well over a third of the innings perhaps meant that new batsmen had to try and score quickly from ball one, and as such, a collapse of 38/5 followed Shehzad’s dismissal.
Michael Leask was the man largely responsible for the collapse, starting it by enticing Shehzad to hole out to long on, and finishing it with two wickets in three balls, Asif Ali also caught at long on, and Hussain Talat stumped just before that.
In the midst of slide came the day’s most eye-catching moment, as Dylan Budge and Mark Watt combined to catch out Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed on the boundary. Relay catches have become commonplace these days, but this was still special because of how close to touching the ground beyond the boundary when he released the ball, and because he was forced to throw it back-handed, unsighted, and seemingly telepathically knowing where his teammate was.
It felt a key moment, Sarfraz being in-form – he struck an unbeaten 89 from 49 balls in yesterday’s fixture – and bringing with it two more quick wickets, but Shoaib ensured the collapse wasn’t terminal. What was most impressive was how he managed to bide his time, despite the limited time he had to bat. A nine-ball stretch which cost 32 closed his innings, helped by some wayward, perhaps over-excited bowling, full tosses and directionless short balls not helping Scotland’s cause.
It has been a feature of this short and sweet T20I series – Scotland getting into good positions but unable to capitalise, perhaps due to a slight lack of experience. If that is the cause, though the losses will be hard to take, they should benefit hugely from having watched the MRF Tyres No.1 side do their thing, and from knowing that, for stretches, they were able to compete with them.