When a cumulative of 432 ODIs with 12,000-plus runs is at the crease, chances are remote that such experience would go wrong, and when Shoaib Malik joined Mohammad Hafeez during the run-chase in the series decider with Pakistan’s innings headed downhill, West Indies found it tough to invade the fortress further. The seasoned campaigners strung together a 113-run partnership for the fourth wicket and despite Hafeez departing with still 80-odd runs needed, Pakistan found able personnel in Malik to guide them through to a rare series win, continuing their dominance on the Caribbean soil. The tourists completed the chase in 43.1 overs with six wickets in the bank.
After an inspiring bowling display where almost every Pakistan bowler put his hand up to confine the hosts to a modest 233, the tourists found themselves on quicksand, losing their first three wickets to Shannon Gabriel, who at the first place was not likely to play due to an injury. But not just he passed the fitness test on the morning of the match, he also derailed Pakistan at the beginning of their 234-run pursuit, leaving them in tatters. Kamran Akmal’s poor day at the office continued from a dropped catch to a leading edge off the first ball of the innings as he got out for a golden duck off Gabriel’s bowling. Gabriel had the other opener in his next over, almost, as Chadwick Walton dropped a tough but gettable catch on the on-side to provide Ahmed Shehzad with an early reprieve. Gabriel just didn’t take the foot off the pedal as he forced Shehzad into a cut too close to the body, edging it to the keeper, thus picking up his man on the second attempt.
The dangerous Babar Azam was next on Gabriel’s mind and despite being struck for a couple of gorgeous boundaries in the fifth over, the tall paceman induced a thick inside edge off an attempted cover drive to clatter into the stumps. Pakistan were three down for 36 on the board and that is when Hafeez and Malik combined to write a different script to what had happened thus far. Malik started off with one of his favourite cut shots that went into the fence, Hafeez didn’t hold back, stroking a boundary in the next over, and both the wealthily experienced men were up and running. In between, there was a run-out chance in the 11th over where Devendra Bishoo’s throw from cover went off target.
West Indies, who were playing an extra spinner in the attack, employed one after the other, but never had Hafeez and Malik looked as comfortable it seemed, as they continued to pick boundaries at regular intervals and the pitch seemed to be at ease as well, or at least, they made it look like. Hafeez got to his half-century first, getting there off just 58 balls, putting all previous complaints of languid strike-rate to rest. When Gabriel returned in a crucial throw of the dice for West Indies in the 23rd over, Hafeez hit him for a six and a four to showcase that the partnership had grown beyond the hosts’ control.
Hafeez, who was headed towards a hundred, failed to control a sweep off Ashley Nurse and was dismissed for 81, but the authoritative partnership had been such that Pakistan never looked out of place in the chase. Malik got to his fifty off 68 balls and never looked back from there. He took the aerial route time and again, hitting Nurse for a six and scoring heavily along the ground too. He was put down off a tough chance when Walton threw himself in the air at mid-wicket. Sending a couple of boundaries across the fence in the same over of Gabriel, Malik ensured that he was on the brink of a hundred.
Malik eventually got to the three-figure landmark off the first ball of the 44th over with a six, also capping off a clinical six-wicket triumph and sealing a 2-1 series win in the ODI leg.
Earlier in the contest, West Indies won the toss and surprisingly on an overcast day, chose to bat first. The pacers up front reduced the hosts to 68 for 3 but following a defiant 101-run partnership between Jason Mohammed and Shai Hope, West Indies found themselves back on the feet. Quick wickets there on saw the hosts slipping again, only to scamper their way to a modest 233 in 50 overs, which never looked challenging enough. West Indies have now lost both the T20I and ODI series and will lock horns with Pakistan in a three-match Test series, starting April 22.
Brief Scores: West Indies 233/9 in 50 overs (Shai Hope 71, Jason Mohammed 59; Mohammad Amir 2-41, Shadab Khan 2-57) lost to Pakistan 236/4 in 43.1 overs (Shoaib Malik 101*, Mohammad Hafeez 81; Shannon Gabriel 2-60) by six wickets.