50 overs Pakistan 268 for 8 (Rizwan 67, Babar 60, Salman 38*, Naib 2-36, Fareed 2-70) vs Afghanistan
It was an innings of two halves. The first 30 overs yielded Pakistan only 103 runs while the last 20 got them 165. Batting first on a two-paced Colombo surface, the batters were at no point comfortable initially. Babar and Rizwan added 110 runs for the third wicket, but took 145 balls. A mini-collapse also followed but Salman and Nawaz arrested the slide and helped Pakistan end on a high.
The under-fire Fakhar Zaman was off the blocks early climbing into Fazalhaq Farooqi, slamming him for five fours in the 20 balls he faced. Imam-ul-Haq, on the other hand, struggled all through. He played back-to-back maidens off Mujeeb Ur Rahman and in general lacked timing.
Pakistan still managed to get going at a tick over four an over, with Fakhar finding his groove. But a bowling change got the hosts back into the game. Gulbadin Naib, playing his first game of the series, drafted into the side in place of the injured Azmatullah Omarzai, made an immediate impact. His pace was in the mid-120s but he found enough movement to trouble both Imam and Fakhar.
A couple of outswingers beat Fakhar’s outstretched blade before he tried a release shot only miscue a length ball straight up. The catch was intercepted well by Riaz Hassan, who sprinted back from extra cover and sent back Fakhar for 27.
Naib then removed Imam as well. He came dashing down the track to a short-of-a-length ball outside off, but as was the case with Fakhar, was beaten by away movement. A wild swing of the bat followed, but he could only manage a thick edge with Rahmanullah Gurbaz doing the rest.
Babar and Rizwan got together in the 13th over and for the next few overs, run-scoring became a massive task. Only four fours were hit in the next 18 overs, with the run rate dropping to below 3.50. The Afghans stuck to a plan but there was also a lack of intent from both batters.
Drinks were called for and soon after both batters flicked a switch. Pakistan collected 85 runs between overs 31 to 40 to storm back into the contest. Rizwan was the one to break the shackles and he reached his tenth ODI fifty off 69 balls while Babar joined him soon taking 77 balls to reach the landmark.
Both batters, however, failed to post a three-figure score. While Rashid Khan induced an outside edge off Babar’s blade, Rizwan fell lbw to Fareed Ahmaed, though he might consider himself a tad unlucky, with replays showing the ball would have just taken the top of leg stump. In between, Afghanistan also ran out Saud Shakeel as Pakistan lost 3 for 9 in 15 balls.
Nawaz and Salman, however, made sure to give Pakistan a good end. They stitched a 61-run stand off 47 balls for the seventh wicket. Afghanistan, who were brilliant in the field in the top half of the innings, started to make mistakes. There were a number of misfields and dropped chances with Pakistan going past 250 with ease.
Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo