Pakistan sweeps virus-hit West Indies in Twenty20 series

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan completed a clean sweep in the three-match Twenty20 series against a virus-hit West Indies with a resounding seven-wicket win on Thursday.

Run-machine Mohammad Rizwan rounded off the year with his 12th half century in Twenty20 internationals by scoring 87 while captain Babar Azam made 79 in Pakistan’s blistering run-chase of 208-3 in 18.5 overs.

The West Indies squad was further depleted on the morning of the match when three more players tested positive for the coronavirus, increasing the number of cases to nine — six players and three support personnel — in the tourists’ camp.

The West Indies’ top-order batters, led by captain Nicholas Pooran’s blazing 64 off 37 balls, still did well to post 207-3 after the tourists had won the toss and elected to bat.

“Rizwan and I thought of going till the end and keep managing the run rate,” Babar said. “Our bench strength got a good workout too and it’s a great sign for me as a captain.”

West Indies felt the absence of leftarm spinner Akeal Hosein, who was one of the three players to test positive along with Shai Hope and allrounder Justin Greaves. Hosein had did well in the previous two games, which Pakistan won by 63 and nine runs respectively.

Rizwan and Babar toyed with the inexperienced West Indies bowling attack once the former overturned an lbw decision through a television referral off debutant leftarm spinner Gudakesh Motie’s first ball.

Both batsmen became the first pair to record a sixth century stand for the opening wicket and surpassed the record of five set by the Indian first-wicket pair of Rohit Sharma and Lokesh Rahul.

Babar, who hit nine fours and two sixes, combined in a 158-run stand before the Pakistan captain holed out at mid-off against Odean Smith’s knuckle ball in the 16th over.

Rizwan hit 10 fours and three sixes before he sliced a catch to Pooran with Pakistan needing only 24 for victory. Hard-hitting Asif Ali (21 not out) smashed two sixes and two fours to raise the victory with seven balls to spare.

Earlier, the West Indies batters profited in the absence of Pakistan’s rested fast bowlers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf to post a challenging total.

Shamarh Brooks (49) and Brandon King (43) smashed 66 in the first six overs with fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain (0-49) proving too expensive.

Pooran also scored at will before Pakistan pulled back through fast bowler Shahnawaz Dahani, who conceded just one boundary in his four overs, and got the wicket of Brooks to finish with 1-23.

“I felt that in the last two overs, we definitely lost momentum,” Pooran said. “Pakistan bowled well at the backend (and) we were 20 runs short on this wicket.”

Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan, right, and Babar Azam run between the wickets during the third Twenty20 international cricket match between Pakistan and West Indies at the National Stadium, in Karachi, Pakistan, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

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