By our correspondent
ABU DHABI: Pakistan cruised to a 45-run victory over Namibia as opening pair Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan again starred with the bat to all but confirm their semi-final spot.
Babar, 70, and Rizwan, 79 not out, became the first pair to share five T20I century stands with their second of the tournament as they put on 113 for the first wicket. Pakistan had started slowly but the Group 2 leaders smashed 130 from their last ten overs to register an imposing 189 for two.
Namibia were always up against it and despite 40s from David Wiese and No.3 Craig Williams, fell well short of their target as Pakistan maintained their perfect record with a fourth consecutive Super 12s victory at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.
Babar chose to bat but runs were hard to come by early on as Ruben Trumpelmann opened up with a maiden to Rizwan. Rizwan continued to struggle and JJ Smit thought he had him trapped lbw for two in the fifth over only for DRS to prove the ball had pitched just outside leg stump.
Babar was by far the more fluent of the pair scoring 21 of the 29 Pakistan added in the powerplay without loss.
For the eighth time in 19 T20I innings Babar and Rizwan brought up a 50 partnership, on this occasion from 55 balls, and at the halfway stage Pakistan were travelling nicely at virtually a run a ball with all ten wickets still in hand. Trumpelmann returned to the attack in the 12th over, his previous two going for just two runs, and was greeted with a six by Rizwan before Babar brought up his third half-century of the tournament from 39 balls as Pakistan put their foot on the gas.
Some 30 runs had come from the last two overs and Rizwan finally looked to have found his groove, launching Jan Nicol Loftie-Eaton for a meaty six down the ground before Babar brought up a magnificent 100 partnership in exactly 13 overs.
But Wiese finally ended Babar’s impressive knock in the 15th over when he holed out in the deep for 70 off 49 balls, curtailing an opening stand of 113. And his replacement at the crease Fakhar Zaman soon joined him back in the hutch for five after a super one-handed grab from wicket-keeper Zane Green gave Jan Frylinck a deserved wicket.
However, that was as good as things got for the bowling side as Mohammad Hafeez, 32 off 16 balls, and Rizwan, 79 off 50, launched into some astonishing late hitting with a partnership of 67 from just 26 balls. Rizwan had started slowly but brought up a 42-ball half-century with a six before brutally dismantling Smit in the final over, taking 24 from it to leave Namibia an unlikely 190 to win.
That task got even harder when Hasan Ali’s delivery dismantled Michael van Lingen’s stumps in the second over of the chase.
Stephen Baard picked up Haris Rauf for six over the legside as Namibia reached 34 for one off the powerplay, with the required run rate already over 11. Despite diving for his ground, Baard was run out by a combination of Haris and Rizwan for a promising run-a-ball 29 after Williams slipped and sent him back, ending a partnership of 47.
Skipper Gerhard Erasmus raced to 14 off 6 as Namibia climbed to 70 for two after ten overs, still needing more than two runs a ball to pull off a remarkable victory. Erasmus was given a life when Shaheen Shah Afridi spilled a steepling catch off Shadab Khan, so it fell to the aggrieved bowler to see the back of the Namibia captain for 15, taking a simple catch off Imad Wasim.
Williams’ valiant knock of 40 from 37 balls ended when he plinked one to long-off from Shadab’s final ball in the 14th over, with Namibia’s hopes fading fast with 97 off six overs still needed. Smit soon followed before Wiese was rapped on the head by Haris but bravely continued to wield the willow in vain, making an unbeaten 43 off 30 balls as Namibia eventually finished well adrift on 144 for five.
Scores in brief
Pakistan beat Namibia at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi by 45 runs
Pakistan 189/2, in 20 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 79 not out, Babar Azam 70; David Wiese 1/30, Jan Frylinck 1/31)
Namibia 144/5 in 20 overs (David Wiese 43 not out, Craig Williams 40; Imad Wasim 1/13, Hasan Ali 1/22)
Player of the Match: Mohammad Rizwan (Pakistan)