Shaheen, Babar and Rizwan outclass Ireland as Pakistan seal series win

Pakistan

Pakistan 181 for 4 (Babar 75, Rizwan 56, Mark Adair 3-28) beat Ireland 178 for 7 (Tucker 73, Balbirnie 35, Tector 30*, Shaheen 3-14, Abbas 2-43) by six wickets

An imperiously accurate bowling spell from Shaheen Shah Afridi and quick half-centuries from Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam took Pakistan to a six-wicket win over Ireland to complete a 2-1 T20I series victory in Dublin on Tuesday.

Ireland, inspired by a 41-ball 73 from stand-in captain Lorcan Tucker, put up a competitive 178. But Babar and Rizwan made light work of what was, in truth, a below-par total, and another tame bowling performance and sloppy fielding effort from Ireland meant the result was beyond doubt long before the winning runs were struck.

After Babar won the toss and asked Ireland to bat as in the second game, Shaheen and Mohammad Amir bowled a tidy first three overs in stark contrast to the manner in which the two were taken apart two days earlier. Shaheen got his first wicket in that period, but Hasan Ali conceded 16 in his first over as Andy Balbirnie and Tucker began to make up for lost time. Off 49 eventful deliveries as Pakistan’s bowling plans fell apart slightly, Ireland’s second-wicket partnership plundered 85, seemingly setting themselves up for a score around 200.

But, spearheaded by a spell from Shaheen during which he nailed his yorkers almost at will, Ireland collapsed. His four overs allowed a miserly 14 runs and yielded three wickets while his team-mates chipped in around him. Tucker holed out against a typically tidy Imad Wasim and the men who followed never came close to carrying on from where he left off. Ireland managed just 49 in the last seven as Pakistan’s quality shone through, and ceded momentum.

The most significant setback for Pakistan was the continuation of Saim Ayub’s lean run, the opener top-edging one to short third early on. But in the sort of middling chase they thrive on, Rizwan and Babar took full advantage, Babar bedding himself in while Rizwan lit the powerplay up. The two swapped roles once the fielding restrictions lifted, and Babar benefitted from George Dockrell putting him down on 19. As on Sunday, Ireland fell away after that, with Babar capitalising on uninspiring bowling to steamroll his way to a 42-ball 75. Ireland managed a late cluster of wickets as Pakistan galloped towards the finishing line, but the inevitable end came with a full three overs to spare.

Shaheen gets it right, and how!

After he was punished for an errant showing in the second game, Shaheen struck back with the fire of a thousand suns. The first over was ordinary as Balbirnie picked him off for two boundaries, but Shaheen ended up landing just about every one of his remaining 18 deliveries on a sixpence, conceding just six more runs and taking three wickets.

Most impressive was his ability to nail the yorker on command, initially utilising inswing to shatter Ross Adair’s stumps. His final two overs were an exhibition of pace and accuracy as Ireland’s momentum ground to a halt, and Shaheen signed off the series with a performance that could be the start of his return to vintage, world-beating rhythm.

Babar – power hitter?

The confusion around who should bat in Pakistan’s top four – and in what order – was summed up by a slightly surreal 14th over of Pakistan’s chase. Babar, the man so often accused of showing parsimony with his batting intent, was briefly in with a shot of hitting six sixes in an over from a hapless Ben White.

Three gentle, looping deliveries were dispatched with aplomb, and when Babar missed a flat fourth one, he made up by smashing the next down the ground for another six. The 25 in that over took his strike rate zooming up, making up for another somewhat slow start in an innings where, had Dockrell held on to a simple chance, Babar would have been on his way for a 16-ball 19. Instead, he struck as many sixes as the rest of his team-mates combined.

Tucker leads from the front

Paul Stirling, rested after a poor first couple of games, was replaced as captain by wicketkeeper Tucker. Tucker had topped Ireland’s batting card with a half-century in the second game, and, in the decider, punished a rusty Hasan right from the outset. Once he was off, Pakistan never quite found a way to stem the scoring from that end.

Even Balbirnie, who was going at a run a ball at that point, found an extra gear, ensuring Pakistan were always under pressure as long as that partnership lasted.

Tucker also ensured the immediate post-powerplay slowdown against spin never quite materialised, highlighted by his takedown of Saim Ayub in the tenth over. He took advantage of Pakistan’s curious decision not to bowl Imad in the first ten as well.

He signed off with three successive fours in Hasan’s third over, hitting him out of the attack and potentially sealing his fate ahead of Pakistan’s squad announcement for the T20 World Cup. That Ireland’s gears ground to a half immediately after Tucker fell perhaps illustrated the difference in class between him and the batters he was surrounded by.

Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000

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