MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — Captain Babar Azam’s record-breaking 17th ODI hundred powered Pakistan to a five-wicket win over the West Indies in sweltering heat on Wednesday.
Babar’s 103 off 107 balls — his fourth century in the last five one-day internationals — carried Pakistan to 306-5 with four balls to spare for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Left-handed batter Khushdil Shah survived a couple of close run-outs before smashing four sixes against the fast bowlers to remain unbeaten on 41 off 23 balls.
Shai Hope’s brilliant 127 off 134 had earlier propelled the West Indies to 305-8 after captain Nicholas Pooran had won the toss and elected to bat with the temperature reaching 42 degree Celsius (107 F).
But Babar, the world’s top-ranked ODI batter, perfectly engineered Pakistan’s highest-ever chase in an ODI against the West Indies.
Babar and Imam-u-Haq, who made 65, shared a 103-run second wicket stand after Fakhar Zaman (11) spliced a catch at short cover off Jayden Seales' short-pitch ball early in the run-chase.
Both Babar and Imam dominated the spinners and pace on a wicket conducive for batting. Akeal Hosein got the breakthrough when Imam went for a needless reverse sweep against the left-arm spinner and offered a tame catch.
But Babar continued his sublime form in white-ball cricket and shared another century stand with Mohammad Rizwan (59) as the West Indies struggled to stem the flow of runs.
Babar raised his century off 103 balls with nine fours when he delicately late cut leg-spinner Haden Walsh Jr. to third man boundary for his ninth four of the innings.
Babar became the first batter in the history of ODI to score three consecutive hundreds on two separate occasions. He made three consecutive centuries against the West Indies in 2016 and followed his two hundreds against Australia at Lahore this year with another brilliant knock on Wednesday.
Fast bowler Alzarri Joseph provided the West Indies a sneak in his return spell when Babar top-edged a pull to mid-wicket with Pakistan still needing 69 runs.
Rizwan then skied an easy catch to Pooran against Romario Shepherd’s off-cutter but Shah ensured Pakistan didn’t slip up by smashing four sixes against Shepherd to give Pakistan a memorable win.
Earlier, Hope and Shamarh Brooks provided the visitors a solid platform of a big total by sharing 154-run second wicket stand.
Hope and Brooks took on Pakistan fast bowlers Hasan Ali (0-68) and Haris Rauf (4-77) while watchfully playing out the spin threat of Shadab Khan.
Brooks made 70 off 83 balls before Shadab plucked a superb one-handed sliding catch at short third man to end the threatening stand in the 31st over.
Pooran (21) tried to accelerate and hit three sixes before he holed out at deep mid-wicket and Brandon King (4) offered a simple return catch to Shadab, who finished with 1-37 in his comeback ODI after missing out the last series against Australia due to injury.
Hope completed his 4,000 ODI runs when he raised his 12th hundred off 118 balls with a cover driven boundary against Hasan but Rauf’s late wickets pegged back the West Indies in the latter half of the innings despite cameos by Rovman Powell (32) and Shepherd (25).
Hope, who hit 15 fours and a six, dragged Rauf’s off-cutter back onto his stump while Shepherd and Hosein were caught in the deep in the fast bowler’s last over while looking for quick runs.
The second game will be played Friday with the last one scheduled Sunday.
The series was postponed last December after a COVID-19 outbreak in the West Indies camp during the preceding Twenty20 series in Pakistan.
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