Pakistan under pressure
Hong Kong went in with the same philosophy as against India: bowl at the stumps, give the batters no pace to work with, and build up dots. Pakistan, though, were in a must-win situation against a side that didn’t have much to lose. Early doors – as Babar Azam fell in the third over and Rizwan struggled for timing – it was apparent even 150 might be enough for an attack as good as Pakistan’s, but you can never say if two batters go for it and have a good day.
Rizwan and Fakhar, though, didn’t look too hassled. They were happy to knock the ball around when the spinners were on. Fakhar looked to give the charge once in a while but the wily Yasim Murtaza kept him in check with slow pace and mastery over length. Rizwan kept trying to sweep, but struggled to find the right line for it. When they went into the drinks break halfway into the innings, neither Fakhar nor Rizwan was going faster than a run a ball. There might have been questions about their approach but this was not for want of trying. The conditions were difficult and the bowling good from a side that plays its home cricket on low, slow surfaces.
After the drinks break, more used to the pace of the pitch, both batters started taking on the spinners. Rizwan skipped down to the tall legspinner Mohammad Ghazanfar to hit him over long-on. He kept attacking spin to break away from Fakhar and bring up his fifty off 42 balls. In the 15th over, Fakhar found his timing, and when he did, he hit a six and a four off left-arm spinner Murtaza in a 13-run 16th over.
Fakhar got out soon after getting to his fifty, but the military medium of Ayush Shukla and Aizaz Khan was cannon fodder for Khushdil in the 18th and 20th overs. He ended the innings with four successive sixes off Aizaz.
Bowling too good
The Hong Kong batters never looked at ease. They stayed deep in the crease to even full balls from the quicks, and looked to stay leg side of the ball. The first wicket was a result of that: captain Nizakat Khan looked to drive with his weight back, got no power into the shot and offered an easy catch off Naseem. Babar Hayat played three dots and heaved at one to be bowled top of off stump. Dahani hurried Murtaza up with a quick short one for a top-edge on the hook.
The powerplay ended at 25 for 3, but Hong Kong’s troubles were only just beginning. Their batters failed to pick Shadab’s wrong’uns, and he proceeded to have fun with them. Three of his four wickets were bowled off wrong’uns: the first one on the cut, the second behind the legs, and the third off a big slog. Nawaz didn’t have to work hard either as the batters kept falling on the sweep. Zeeshan Ali tried to hit a six down the ground but found long-on.
The end came as swiftly as the Shadab flipper to get No. 11 Ghazanfar lbw pad first.