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T20 World Cup: Azam, Malik fifties propel Pakistan to 189/4

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Sharjah, Nov 7 (IANS) Contrasting half-centuries from Babar Azam (66 off 47 balls) and Shoaib Malik (54 not out off 18 balls) took Pakistan to an imposing 189/4 in 20 overs against Scotland in their final Group 2 match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium here on Sunday.

While Azam was classy in his fourth half-century of the tournament, Malik was ruthlessly dazzling in his half-century, joint fastest of this event alongside India’s KL Rahul against the same country. Mohammad Hafeez chipped in with an important 19-ball 31, providing some momentum in the middle overs.

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After electing to bat first, Pakistan had a brisk start in Power-play, collecting 36 runs. Azam slammed a four each off Bradley Wheal and Safyaan Sharif while Mohammad Rizwan smashed a six over cow corner off Wheal. A struggling Rizwan (15) was first to fall, under-edging to keeper Matthew Cross off leg-spinner Hamza Tahir on the first ball post Power-play. Three overs later, Fakhar Zaman holed out to deep mid-wicket off Chris Greaves.

Azam continued with his run-making spree, sharing a 53-run stand with Hafeez (31) for the third wicket. Hafeez was severe on pacer Sayfaan Sharif, pulling him over wide long-on for a six followed by successive fours in the 15th over. But Sharif had the last laugh as Hafeez missed the pull and was trapped plumb lbw.

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Azam reached his half-century with a single off Tahir in the next over. After he slammed Tahir down the ground for a six, he went on to whack Mark Watt over long-on for another six. Shoaib Malik joined the party by tonking Watt for a lofted six over extra cover. Azam’s knock was brought to an end by Chris Greaves, holing out to long-on in the 18th over.

Malik then launched a stunning exhibition of late-overs hitting in the last two overs. After slamming two massive sixes over long-on off Sharif, Malik carted Greaves for a six and four over deep mid-wicket followed by another six over long-on. He finished off the innings with another six over deep mid-wicket to amass 26 runs off the last over of the innings.

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Brief scores: Pakistan 189/4 in 20 overs (Babar Azam 66, Shoaib Malik 54 not out, Chris Greaves 2-43, Hamza Tahir 1-24) against Scotland

–IANS

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