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Cricket Australia confirms Pakistan tour; PCB announces revised schedule

ghazi52

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A night for the Pakistan Star and Crescent​

Babar and Imam helped seal the highest chase in their ODI history against a team that has routinely tormented them

Danyal Rasool

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Babar Azam produced a match-winning century AFP/Getty Images

You can't miss it as you approach the Liberty Roundabout on the way to Gaddafi Stadium. Australian flags are being hawked as spectators, only at a trickle in the searing heat of day, trudge towards the venue. A few stop, purchase the little flag adorned by the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross, and continue their march towards their section. It's just another facet of an unusually affable tour, but by now, it must also be nice to feel like you're supporting a side that actually wins.
month after this historic series began and less than a week before it concludes, the side representing that flag are the only ones to have tasted triumph so far. Pakistan are yet to pick up a win, and Aaron Finch's golden duck aside, Australia start in a manner that suggests the streak won't be broken today. As the sun retreats beneath Gaddafi's iconic horizontal columns and the shadows begin to encroach over more of the venue's seating capacity, the stadium begins to fill up. The green and white of the Pakistani flag is ubiquitous, of course, but every now and then, flashes of the Blue Ensign are visible.

It's a different shade of blue that's a hallmark of Pakistan's fiercest rivals, but the ones who've given this side the most to resent play under this flag; their resplendent yellow immediately evocative of myriad traumas and heartbreaks. This Australia side has beaten Pakistan in each of the last 10 ODIs stretching back to 2017; as they amass 348 at the halfway stage, it's impossible to see how that won't stretch to 11.

Pakistan begin at the sort of leisurely pace that would make you think they were chasing something closer to 250 than 350. Which, in this country, is all they've known against Australia; Pakistan's highest chase at home against these visitors is 251. When Fakhar Zaman survives a superb attempt at a catch from Marcus Stoinis on the boundary, it feels, as early as the fifth over, like a moment that's kept the game - and series - alive.

Fakhar is the variable in this side, the wrecking ball who can make a mockery of bowlers, targets, and precedent in general. Which is handy, because with Pakistan on a 16-match winless streak against Australia across formats, precedent will very much need to be mocked if the Gaddafi faithful are, for once, going to go home happy.

Fakhar churns through the gears, putting the pressure back on this inexperienced bowling line-up. It's worth remembering none of the frontline seamers are part of a first-choice Australian XI, and they need not become magically scarier just because they've got that green and gold top on. Imam-ul-Haq, meanwhile, has kept his strike rate well out in front because he is - in that gloriously Pakistani way - under pressure despite scoring 103 at a strike rate of 107 in a chase of 314 on Tuesday. On that evening, he was dressed down publicly by the Pakistan captain Babar Azam after he got out, with Babar believing he could have taken the game right through to the finish.

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Imam-ul-Haq gets a hug from his captain, Babar Azam, after getting to his century AFP/Getty Images

"In the last match when he got out, I wanted him to take the game deeper because he was the set batter," Babar said after this game. "A set batter can change the game and help out the other batters. So I was just telling him he could have kept going. Today we kept saying we didn't want to leave it to anyone else and get as many of the runs as we could."

This time around, Babar's at the other end when Imam gets to yet another hundred, and the aggression in Imam's celebration is unmistakable as a signal of intent. The stadium roars as one alongside Imam, while his captain rushes over to embrace him. Babar clearly knew how to draw a positive reaction from his long-time friend, who now has nine ODI hundreds in just 48 innings. He's just one ODI hundred behind a certain famous relative, who it's perhaps best to leave unnamed for once.

With Pakistan well on course two-thirds of the way into the chase, Gaddafi begins to believe again. Babar's leading from the front even as Imam falls soon after, smashing, nay, caressing, six boundaries off 11 balls as he charges towards yet another hundred, dismantling both legspinners and Sean Abbott along the way.

"The credit goes to the whole team, who put in a phenomenal effort. We gave a few too many runs away, but the way Fakhar and Imam started gave us the momentum back. Then Imam and I continued the momentum. Wickets in hand always give you and the incoming batters confidence. There are ups and downs but we never stop believing."

It's hard to say the Lahoris packed into the stadium always share that conviction. The hot afternoon had given way to a pleasant late March night, and while you might expect the crowd to thin out as the finish approached, Pakistanis know enough about Australia to recognise a game that isn't finished. And sure enough, when Babar and Mohammad Rizwan fall in quick succession and Nathan Ellis squeezes in a tight over, Pakistan need 27 off 18, and heartache briefly looms large once more.

Khushdil ensures Pakistan needn't suffer exposure therapy anymore, perhaps masking concerns about the middle order for one more game. This might not be anywhere near Australia's full-strength side, but Pakistan have achieved their highest ever ODI chase, and it's come against a group of players wearing a top that says "Australia". The shot in the arm it gives them will not be diminished by the fact the visitors have been hampered by unavailability due to injuries, Covid-19 and IPL contracts.

It's unlikely, too, to bother an exultant Gaddafi stadium, where people of all age groups now head for the exits. Young children and seasoned veterans know equally well the pain of watching this side beat theirs in the most soul-crushing manner, and the smiles on their faces show they do not take what just happened for granted.

The Southern Cross is put aside for now. This is a night for the Star and Crescent.

..,.,.,.,.
 

ghazi52

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Only T20I (N), Lahore, April 04, 2022,


Pakistan
162/8

Australia
(8.2/20 ov, target 163) 84/1

Australia need 79 runs in 70 balls.

Current RR: 10.08
• Required RR: 6.77
• Last 5 ov (RR): 50/1 (10.00)

forecaster
Win Probability:
AUS 89.45% •
PAK 10.55%
 

Pak-Canuck

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First Full Aussie Tour of Pak completed after more than 20 whole years without any incident, AlhumduLillah hopefully this has permanently finished the stigma of touring Pak for all teams.
 

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Azam to Khawaja: Five things we learned from Australia's Pakistan tour​

  • Security personnel escort a convoy carrying Australian and Pakistani cricketers as they arrive at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium (AFP/Aamir QURESHI)

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    Azam to Khawaja: Five things we learned from Australia's Pakistan tour​

    Security personnel escort a convoy carrying Australian and Pakistani cricketers as they arrive at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium (AFP/Aamir QURESHI)
    Aamir QURESHI
  • Flat pitches in Pakistan meant bat largely dominated ball (AFP/Arif ALI)

    2/5

Security personnel escort a convoy carrying Australian and Pakistani cricketers as they arrive at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium (AFP/Aamir QURESHI)
Flat pitches in Pakistan meant bat largely dominated ball (AFP/Arif ALI)
Australia's Usman Khawaja celebrates after scoring a century in the third Test in Lahore (AFP/Aamir QURESHI)
Pakistan's captain Babar Azam celebrates after reaching a century in Karachi (AFP/Rizwan TABASSUM)
Babar Azam celebrates his century during the final one-day international in Lahore (AFP/Arif ALI)


Wed, April 6, 2022, 3:53 AM


Australia's cricketers were heading home Wednesday after completing their first tour to Pakistan since 1998.
Pat Cummins' side won the three-Test series 1-0, lost the one-day internationals 2-1 and rounded off an incident-free trip with victory in the lone Twenty20 international.
AFP Sports highlights five things we learned from the first full tour to Pakistan by a top Test-playing nation since the fatal attack on a Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.
- It's safe to tour -

A full-strength Australia squad were greeted by head of state-style security with hundreds of policemen and military personnel guarding their hotels and routes to the grounds.
The matches passed off without incident in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore and the players, despite also being under strict Covid protocols, were even able to get out for a round of golf.
Pakistan will be hoping the successful Australian tour has paved the way for England and New Zealand to return after both called off series in Pakistan last year citing unspecified security concerns.
- Pitches fail the Test -
The Test series was blighted by flat pitches that offered nothing for the bowlers.
The opening match, on a Rawalpindi pitch deemed "below average" by the International Cricket Council, saw just 14 wickets fall as 1,187 runs were eked out in a bore draw.
The second Test pitch in Karachi was also slow and low and saw drama only in the final session of the final day when a late flurry of wickets saw Pakistan hang on for a draw.
Then it took Cummins' bold declaration with almost two days' play remaining in Lahore to earn Australia a win and the series on another placid pitch.
At least the batsmen-friendly surfaces made for more of a spectacle in the white-ball games.
The highlight was Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq both scoring centuries as Pakistan thrillingly completed a record ODI run chase of 349 with an over to spare in Lahore to keep the series alive.
- Be prepared -
Australia were able to compete when they stepped into the unfamiliar territory of Pakistan because of meticulous research and preparation that even included studying domestic match performances in detail.
The result was an Australia squad able to cover every eventuality.
The tourists had variety in their spin and fast-bowling options, and selected experienced batsmen who could adapt to the conditions -- including Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja, one of the tour's big success stories.
- Khawaja at home -
Khawaja's parents were unable to travel to see him play, but their son did them proud as he plundered 496 runs at an average of 165.33 with two centuries to be the highest scorer in the series.
It capped off a fairytale return to Test cricket for Khawaja, who had not played since 2019 when he was recalled for the fourth Ashes Test at Sydney in January.
He memorably scored a century in each innings at the SCG and his stellar run of scores on this tour of 97, 160, 44 not out, 91 and 104 not out have cemented the 35-year-old's place at the top of Australia's order.
- Azam joins the elite -
Pakistan captain Azam was already renowned as one of the world's finest white-ball batsmen but he can now justifiably join the ranks of Australia's Steve Smith, India's Virat Kohli, England's Joe Root and New Zealand's Kane Williamson as a modern-day master.
"Glad we don't have to bowl to Babar any more for a while," said limited-overs captain Aaron Finch after Azam top scored for the third match running with 66 in his side's 162-8 in Tuesday's lone T20 international.
Azam stood tall in all three formats but his 425-ball, 607-minute, career-best 196 to save the second Test in Karachi was an epic.
Two years after his last Test century, his extraordinary display was the highest fourth-innings score by a captain in history.
There was no let-up in the ODI series as he smashed back-to-back hundreds in the last two matches in Lahore to lead Pakistan's come-from-behind 2-1 victory.
sh/dh
 

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