Pakistan 314 for 6 (Fakhar 109, Babar 74, de Leede 2-42) beat Netherlands 298 for 8 (Edwards 71*, Cooper 65, Naseem 3-51) by 16 runs
Pakistan were nearly made to pay for leaving a few runs out there in the first innings, but sensational death bowling from their three pacers bailed out the batters and saw the visitors close out a 16-run win over Netherlands. The foundation for the victory was laid by a 168-run partnership between Fakhar Zaman, who stroked a majestic 109, and Babar Azam, who chipped in with 74.
While Pakistan had started off sedately, Netherlands knew any chance of victory would involve significant risk-taking. They brushed aside the early losses of Max O’Dowd and Wesley Barresi – the latter a picture-perfect dismissal as he left a Rauf inswinger that clattered into off stump. Cooper injected impetus into the innings as Vikramjit anchored, but before long, both began to take the attack to the bowlers.
But just as the stand approached a hundred, Rauf undid Cooper with a perfectly disguised slower ball which the batter top-edged to Babar at mid-off. With Vikramjit Singh miscuing a sweep soon after, the Netherlands found themselves having to rebuild. With a 55-run sixth wicket stand, they did just that, with in-form batter Edwards continuing where he left off against England. A six and a four off Nawaz had the Netherlands believing once more, and it was followed up by successive boundaries against Shadab Khan.
But Pakistan had the pace trio of Wasim, Naseem and Rauf with overs up their sleeves, and the raw pace and high skill began to demonstrate the gulf between the two sides. Where Pakistan had been allowed to score 88 in the final eight, Netherlands found getting the fast bowlers away significantly harder. Logan van Beek gave Edwards stellar support, but when he holed out against Rauf, it was essentially Edwards against Pakistan. Despite the captain’s quality, that, in the end, was too hot to handle.
Earlier, on what looked a particularly tempting surface to bat on – both Babar and Scott Edwards said they fancied setting a target – Pakistan won the toss and went in first. They began excessively cautiously, scoring just three runs in the first four overs, and slipped to 10 for 1 when an off-colour Imam-ul-Haq was trapped in front by Vivian Kingma.
Netherlands looked particularly toothless in the middle overs – though in fairness, most bowling sides do against Pakistan’s top three. Fakhar displayed ominous rhythm, and when he heaved Kingma over the on side for the game’s first six in the 26th over, only for Babar to follow it up with one in the next over, the huge score Pakistan were tipped to post looked a formality.
That would change when an ill-timed hit from Babar over mid-off off Logan van Beek found Tom Cooper, the Pakistan captain falling 26 short of another hundred. Fakhar made no mistake in getting his in the next over, smashing Aryan Dutt for three fours, only for an ill-judged bit of running to send him back for 109. With Pakistan’s shaky middle order exposed, de Leede and Tim Pringle were able to establish a modicum of control.
But Shadab had other ideas for the death. Capitalising on Netherlands’ sloppiness both with ball and in the field, he smashed four fours and a pair of sixes en route an unbeaten 28-ball 48 as Pakistan struck 88 off the last eight overs. Only de Leede was spared punishment, as the bowler’s unrelenting accuracy and control was difficult to get away from even in the 50th over, in which Pakistan squeezed out just seven. It gave them just about a good enough score to keep the home side at bay, though in the remaining two games, the bowlers might ask the batters to leave them a little more breathing room.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000