Babar Azam keeps Pakistan blooming in Sharjah with another rout of West Indies in first ODI

Pakistan proceded to a dominant 111-run win over West Indies in the first ODI on Friday in Sharjah, where Babar Azam's 120 led the way and the Windies' gloom continued.

Pakistan 284-9 (49 ov); West Indies 175 (38.4/49 ov, target 287)

PAK: Babar Azam 120, Mohammed Nawaz 4-42; WI: Marlon Samuels 46, Carlos Brathwaite 3-54

SHARJAH // Babar Azam made a sparkling century to lead Pakistan's thriving young side into the light at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, as West Indies' listless tour of the UAE continues.

The 21-year-old batsman made 120, before 22-year-old spinner Mohammed Nawaz claimed four wickets to guide their side to a 111-run win.

It meant the Pakistanis took a 1-0 lead at the start of a three-match series which might matter greatly towards qualification for the 2019 World Cup.

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An hour and 20 minutes of play was lost because one of the four floodlights failed. An electricity cable linking the generator to the pylon on the western side of the stadium burnt through.

While the ground was hardly plunged into darkness, visibility for the players was less than perfect, and they were forced off.

The extended delay caused much frustration for the sizable crowd that had gathered after Friday prayers. It also punctured the late-over momentum that had just been swinging into gear for Pakistan.

When play did resume, with an over lost per side, West Indies’ bowlers responded best, keeping the home team to a total of 284 for nine. That was subsequently revised to a target of 287 for West Indies to win, via the Duckworth-Lewis method.

According to Sharjah administrators, it was the first time the DL formula had been used in a major one-day international at a ground where weather – bar the odd sandstorm – rarely causes an interruption.

It felt like one of those days at the UAE’s longest-established cricket venue. The stadium had had a spruce up ahead of this series, but maybe they employed lastminute.com to do the work.

The paint was still drying on the grandstand walls. And the advertising placards which are wrapped around the boundary rope were barely two-thirds finished by the time Shannon Gabriel, the West Indies fast bowler, sent down the first ball of the match.

Given that Azhar Ali, the Pakistan captain, then nicked off to that very delivery, he departed to the awkward backdrop of ground staff completing the boundary marking behind him.

If Sharjah had left their work till late in the day, then who knows when the West Indies players plan to begin theirs on this tour.

They arrived around two weeks ago, mired – typically, it feels like – in controversy, with no head coach, their World Twenty20-winning captain since sacked, and many leading players absent besides.

Ahead of all four matches so far, the players have made all the right noises about being professionals who are focused on their jobs.

The evidence of three defeats across the T20 series, and now the first 50-over match, though, suggest they are simply going through the motions.

They have been summarily outplayed by a developing Pakistan side who themselves are still finding their way in the limited-overs formats.

Of Pakistan’s new bloom, this match belonged to Azam. It was his maiden ODI century in his 16th match, and arrived on the back of a perky 20-over series in which he averaged 101.

His effort was only ended when Kieron Pollard plucked a stunning – although fair to say, trademark, given his ability as an outfielder – catch on the long on fence.

Pollard took it one handed, before relaying it high in the air as he was crossing the boundary, and he scampered back in-field to complete the catch.

Justifiably, he afforded himself an excitable celebration thereafter. The luminosity of that moment was otherwise lost in the gloom for the West Indies.

pradley@thenational.ae

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