No stopping Babar Azam and other things learned from Pakistan's ODI series win over Sri Lanka

Hosts completed 2-0 victory but the islanders gave a good account of themselves in Karachi

Babar Azam, left, acknowledges his fifty against Sri Lanka with Haris Sohail, in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Pakistan play a second one-day international after winning the toss and elected to bat against Sri Lanka. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

At one point, it wasn’t clear whether Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan would go ahead in the first place after 10 players withdrew citing security concerns. But Sri Lanka still managed to confirm their participation, albeit through a second-string team.

Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side were expected to win the ODI series with relative ease and they did just that by clinching a 2-0 win in Karachi. Star batsman Babar Azam was named player of the series for scoring century and 31 in the two completed matches.

Left-arm pacer Usman Shinwari showed that the Pakistan management had erred in not picking him in the World Cup squad by snaring five wickets in the second ODI, which was the first of the series after the first game was rained off.

With the series done and dusted, we take a look at three things we learned.

Brilliant Babar

Babar is easily the most gifted young batsman in the game at the moment. The 24-year-old batsman is still finding his feet in Test cricket but his record in white-ball matches is as good as it gets. Babar hit 115 off 105 deliveries to help the hosts post 305-7 in the first game and got another start in the second – 31.

It has been a brilliant 2019 for Babar, with the right-hand batsman fourth on the list of top-run scorers in ODI cricket this year. After his 71st outing in ODIs, Babar had a better record than India great Virat Kohli at that point in his career. Babar now averages more than 54 in both ODIs and T20s and once he sorts his Test game out, he will become an all-time great batsman for Pakistan.

Covers please

The first ODI in Karachi was washed out due to unseasonal rains. The downpour was so heavy, the second match was pushed back by a day as the ground staff required two full days to get the venue ready. You can’t do anything about the weather but what cricket boards can do is take a leaf out of Sri Lanka’s book when it comes to hosting matches during rain.

The island nation plays most of its home matches during peak monsoon season. They have mastered the art of getting matches under way almost as soon as the rain relents; they way they do it is by covering the entire ground and not just a part of the inner circle. With a little more foresight and investment, it is possible to keep rain interruptions and ground damage to a minimum.

Sri Lanka no pushovers

Not many gave Sri Lanka much of a chance in the absence of regular players, but as they showed during their incredible Test series win in South Africa earlier this year, they pack quite the punch.

In the second ODI, the islanders looked down and out at 28-5 chasing 306 before a record 177-run stand between Shehan Jayasuriya and Dasun Shanaka got them believing again. They fell short of the target by 67 runs but not before giving Pakistan a scare.

Sri Lanka took that momentum into the final ODI with opener Danushka Gunathilaka hitting a near run-a-ball 133 to take the visitors to a challenging 297-9. Pakistan won with 10 balls to spare, with an extra push required toward the end.