Haris Sohail ton in vain as Australia complete whitewash

Pakistan succumbed to a narrow 20-run defeat in the fifth and final ODI despite a fighting Haris Sohail century as Australia completed a morale-boosting series sweep in UAE less than two months out from the World Cup. Set to chase 328 to avoid a whitewash, Sohail laid the platform with his second hundred of the series, with supporting roles from Shan Masood, Umar Akmal but quick wickets in the death overs pushed the asking rate too far beyond even Imad Wasim’s reach as the hosts eventually could manage only 307 for 7 in reply.

Jason Behrendorff set Pakistan back with just the third ball of their chase, sending back the centurion from fourth ODI Abid Ali for a golden duck. However, Sohail’s 129-ball 130 kept Pakistan in the hunt for as long as he was out there in the middle. The No. 3 batsman put on 108 runs for the second wicket with Shan Masood and 102 for the fourth wicket with Umar Akmal to take the hosts to within 100 runs of the target but the latter pair’s dismissals in back to back overs edged Australia ahead by the 40th over.

Masood and Sohail spent the first three overs in their partnership getting their eye in, and then upped the ante to take the home team past the 100-run mark in the 17th over. Sohail led the way, picking at least a boundary in each of the overs, as he raced to a 49-ball half-century by the 15th over. Masood then quickly caught up with his partner, bringing up his fifty in the 19th over off Adam Zampa before misread his googly two balls later to be trapped plumb in front.

Mohammad Rizwan lasted 13 deliveries, and contributed 12 to the chase but Akmal joined hands with Sohail in consolidating the chase. The pair rotated strike extremely well, while Sohail kept finding regular boundaries to keep abreast with the asking rate. He even smacked Zampa to long-off stands after completing his century, before bringing up the hundred of the partnership.

Unfortunately though, just as the partnership seemed to be putting Pakistan in control, Akmal danced down the track to loft Lyon over long-on only to mistime his hit straight to Behrendorff and depart for 44-ball 43. Three balls later, Sohail sliced a short ball from Richardson to Lyon at backward point in what effectively was the turning point of the chase. Their woes were further compounded by Behrendorff who took out Saad Ali with the final ball of the 44th over.

With 73 more to get of the six overs, Pakistan’s hopes hinged on Wasim. And even though he hit a few lusty blows en route a counter-attacking fifty, the asking rate jumped quickly into double digits for Pakistan’s tail to keep up with it. Wasim’s 34-ball 50 not out – that included half a dozen boundaries and a six – came off the penultimate ball when the result of the game was a forgone conclusion.

Earlier, Khawaja missed out on his first century of the series but fifties from each of its top-four propelled Australia to a daunting 327. Put in to bat in the dead rubber, Australia got off to a flying start courtesy the left-hander’s 48-ball fifty. Khawaja took a liking to the pace duo of Mohammad Abbas and Junaid Khan early, and was the aggressor in his 134-run opening stand with Aaron Finch, who played second fiddle. The Australian skipper picked up pace after the powerplay and struck Imad Wasim for a six and four in successive overs to march to his fifty, off 61 deliveries.

At nearly the halfway mark into the innings, Usman Shinwari got Pakistan the breakthrough they’d been desperate for by knocking off Finch’s middle-stump with a swinging delivery that beat the batsman’s drive. However, the celebrations were short-lived as Khawaja and Marsh combined for another frustrating partnership, worth 80.

Closing in on a hundred, Khawaja slowed down and consumed 31 deliveries to move from a 79-ball 80 to 98 before falling agonisingly short of what could have been his third ODI hundred. Once again, it was Shinwari who managed to break apart the threatening partnership. In the meanwhile, though, Marsh picked up pace after a solid start and marched to a 53-ball fifty as visitors reached 220/2 at the end of 40 overs.

Coming in at No. 4, Maxwell got going with a boundary short straight up and then laid into Yasir Shah, who returned into the attack in the 41st over with three more hits to the fence to up the ante in the death overs. Junaid Khan came next in the firing line, dispatched or a four and six off consecutive balls. Maxwell’s was the fastest fifty of the four Australian batsmen, taking only 26 deliveries and coming at a strike-rate above 200 consistently despite losing a well-set Marsh at the other end. Shinwari and Junaid, who eventually shared seven wickets between them, threatened to stall Australia’s charge by striking in quick succession in the final five overs but Maxwell’s 33-ball 70 had set up Australia for a match-wining total.

Brief scores: Australia 327/7 in 50 overs (Usman Khawaja 98, Glenn Maxwell 70, Sahun Marsh 61, Aaron Finch 53; Usma Shinwari 4-49, Junaid Khan 3-73) beat Pakistan 307/7 in 50 overs(Haris Sohail 130, Shan Masood 50, Imad Wasim 50*; Jason Behrendorff 3-63) by 20 runs.

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