Malik's half century carries Pakistan to 5-wicket win

RIZWAN ALI
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Pakistan Cricket Bangladesh

Bangladesh batsman Tamim Iqbal plays against Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Pakistan and Bangladesh are playing their first T20 of the three matches series under tight security. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Shoaib Malik made an impressive return to Twenty20 cricket with a half century and carried Pakistan to five-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the first match of the three-match series on Friday.

Malik, who scored 58 not out off 45 balls with five fours, was brought back after Pakistan lost six of seven completed T20s in 2019 without him and needs to beat Bangladesh 3-0 in the series to retain its No. 1 ranking.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, the world’s top-ranked T20 batsman, was out for his first zero in T20 internationals when he was caught behind off the second ball, but Malik carried the home team to 142-5 in 19.3 overs.

“The victory was very important and the way the bowlers did, it was brilliant,” Babar said. “We didn't expect the pitch would be this much slow, but the way our bowlers planned for it, I give them all the credit. Malik paced his innings very well and helped us to achieve the target.”

Debutant opening batsman Ahsan Ali also made a fine 36 but recalled 39-year-old Mohammad Hafeez could score only 17 in his first T20 international since November 2018.

The match was played at the Gaddafi Stadium, the same venue where a second-string Sri Lanka had won 3-0 in last October and Babar was named captain in place on Sarfaraz Ahmed. But Babar lost 2-0 in his debut series as captain and the selectors were forced to recall Malik and Hafeez.

Earlier, Bangladesh struggled to reach 141-5 against Pakistan’s young pace attack and legspinner Shadab Khan after captain Mahmudullah won the toss and elected to bat on a slow wicket.

“The wicket was surprising and it was hard to play shots once the ball got older and softer,” Mahmudullah said. “We were about 15 runs short today and gave away too many boundaries. We missed a few run out chances and catch chances.”

Opening pair Mohammad Naim (43) and Tamim Iqbal (39) featured in a 71-run stand, but they consumed more than half of the overs.

Tamim was run out in the 11th over while Naim holed out in the deep in the 15th over. Shadab finished with 1-26.

Young fast bowlers Shaheen Afridi (1-23) and debutant Haris Rauf (1-32) bowled well in the late overs and never allowed Bangladesh to accelerate. Haris, who impressed selectors with his pace in the Big Bash League, claimed his first international wicket when he had Afif Hossain (9) clean bowled in the 18th over.

The second match will be played on Saturday before Bangladesh’s first phase of the tour to Pakistan ends on Monday with the third and final game.

The tour was only finalized last week when Bangladesh agreed to split the Twenty20 series and the two ICC World Test Championship matches in three phases after the national cricket boards reached consensus in Dubai in a meeting facilitated by International Cricket Council chairman Shashank Manohar.

Bangladesh will return for the first test in Rawalpindi from Feb. 7-11. After a break of almost two months, Bangladesh will play an ODI and the second test in Karachi on April 3-9.

Late last year, Sri Lanka also split its tour to Pakistan in two phases when it played a Twenty20 series in Lahore and then returned in December for two test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

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