Pakistan pacers showed why they are one of the most feared in international cricket as the team in green crushed Afghanistan by 142 runs in the first ODI in Sri Lanka's Hambantota on Tuesday.
Pacer Haris Rauf blew Afghanistan's batting away in a fiery spell of 5-18, dismissing them for 59 after making 201 on a sluggish surface.
Left-arm pacer Shaheen Afridi started the slide with the wickets of Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah off successive deliveries in his second over.
Rauf then ripped Afghanistan's batting apart in a spell where he consistently clocked in excess of 90mph. With Naseem Shah also matching Rauf and Afridi for pace and movement, Pakistan now possess one of the most lethal pace attacks in world cricket, with another genuine quick Zaman Khan waiting in the wings.
“The spell of Haris was game-changing,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said after the win. “We just wanted to bowl as many dot balls as possible and hit hard lengths in the powerplay. We lost wickets up front and then Imam and Iftikhar got us to a decent total.”
Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi hoped his players learn from their mistakes and put in a better batting display in the second ODI, which takes place at the same venue on Thursday.
“It was chaseable, we had a good chance but we couldn't do. I think our shot selection in the beginning was not good enough,” Shahidi said.
“I am happy with our bowling performance though. This is the first match. Looking forward to the next few games.”
Pakistan's bowling effort also served as a warning for other batsmen ahead of two major upcoming tournaments – the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and the World Cup hosted by India.
The extreme pace at the disposal of Babar means Pakistan will be confident about defending any total. Their slow bowlers are also second to none, with leg-spinner Shadab Khan leading the way.
Rauf is the leading wicket-taker for Pakistan in ODIs in the last two years, picking up 30 wickets from 15 matches at an economy of less than six an over. In fact, Pakistan's front-line pace attack has bowled at an economy of less than six in this period, with Shah at less than five.
In fact, most of their ODI team chooses itself and they have had one of the smoothest build-ups to the World Cup.
Thursday will provide Pakistan a chance to not only push for a series win in the three-match series, but also inch closer to the world No1 ranking in ODIs. Pakistan need to win the series 3-0 to climb to the top.