LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Captain Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq smashed powerful centuries Thursday as Pakistan leveled the three-match series against a depleted Australia with their biggest ever successful run-chase in an One-Day International (ODI).
Babar made a blistering 114 off 83 balls and Imam scored 106 as Pakistan marched to 349 for four with an over to spare for a six-wicket win.
Australia had earlier made another imposing total of 348 for eight after Babar won the toss and elected to field for the second game in a row. Ben McDermott’s (104) maiden ODI hundred formed the cornerstone of Australia’s strong total.
Khushdil Shah scored an unbeaten 27 off 17 balls and Iftikhar Ahmed (8 not out) raised Pakistan’s memorable victory with six balls to spare after Babar and Imam had dominated an inexperienced Australian bowling attack.
Travis Head (89) missed out on his second successive century while Marnus Labuschagne (59) and Marcus Stoinis (49) also played cameos to set up another challenging total for Pakistan after Australia had defended 313 for seven in the first game of the three-match series.
The emphatic win broke Pakistan’s 10-match losing streak against Australia, which is missing several leading players and only had 13 fit players to chose from after the white-ball squad in Lahore was hit by COVID-19.
The imposing Pakistan chase eclipsed its previous highest successful chase in the 50-over format when they made 329 for seven to beat Bangladesh by three wickets in an Asia Cup game at Mirpur in 2014.
Two days ago Imam’s century went in vain when Australia recorded an emphatic 88-run, but the left-handed opening batter ensured Pakistan did not slip up for the second successive time by featuring in two solid century partnerships.
Imam laid a rollicking platform of 118 runs with Fakhar Zaman, who made 67 before Fakhar was undone by Stoinis’ slower delivery and was clean bowled in the 19th over.
Australia’s understrength bowling attack cracked up against the brilliant strokeplay of Babar, who dominated the twin spin threat of Adam Zampa and Mitchell Swepson with flurry of boundaries on both sides of the wickets.
Imam, who also scored a century in each innings against Australia in the first test earlier this month, batted resolutely and hit six fours and three sixes before he perished in the 35th over when he holed out at long-on off Zampa.
But Babar, who was criticized for his slow strike rate in the first game, took charge against the spinners and inexperienced fast bowlers as he raised his century off just 71 balls.
Babar departed in the 45th over with Pakistan needing 40 for victory when he was smartly caught at mid-wicket by Labuschagne in Ellis’ return spell before Khushdil kept his cool and carried Pakistan home with two sixes and two fours.
Earlier, McDermott, who scored his maiden ODI half century in Australia’s 88-run win on Tuesday, added 162 runs for the second-wicket stand with Head after captain Aaron Finch was out plumb leg before wicket off the first ball he faced from Shaheen Afridi.
McDermott reached his half century with a straight six off spinner Iftikhar and raised his century with an identical shot against left-arm spinner Khushdil.
McDermott hit 10 fours and four sixes before he missed a full toss from Mohammad Wasim and holed out to mid-wicket but Stoinis provided a late flourish with his breezy knock off 33 balls.
Afridi, who returned after missing the first game due to a knee injury, picked up three late wickets to finish with four for 63, but it was the Pakistan spinners who struggled against Australia’s top-order batters.
Iftikhar and Khushdil leaked 95 runs off their combined 10 overs while Zahid Mahmood went for 71 off his 10 overs for the sole wicket of Head, who top-edged a sweep against the leg-spinner.
The third and final ODI will be played on Saturday before Australia round off their tour to Pakistan with a one-off Twenty20 next Tuesday.