Babar Azam plays a shot, celebrates after scoring a century during the ODI match at the Multan Cricket Stadium on Wednesday night. AFP
Skipper Babar Azam (103) struck a fine century while Imam-ul Haq (65) and Mohammad Rizwan (59) scored fifties to help Pakistan overcome West Indies by five wickets in the first One-day International (ODI) at the Multan Cricket Stadium.
Babar was at his brilliant best while Imam-ul Haq gave him good company as they raised 103 runs for the second wicket. He then added 108 runs for the third wicket with Rizwan before Khushdil Shah (41 not out off 23 balls) sealed victory with a late cameo as Pakistan did enough to sneak past Shai Hope and the West Indies.
Hope scored 127 to help West Indies reach 305/8 in 50 overs but with Babar and his boys standing tall, Pakistan reached 306.5 in 42.9 overs to win the first match of the series.
Babar continued to make a mockery of opposition bowlers and the Pakistan captain was at it again on Wednesday night as he helped himself to yet another ODI century.
It was Babar's third century on the trot and it also meant he becomes the first player in the history of ODI cricket to score three consecutive centuries on two separate occasions, said a report on the ICC's official website.
Nicholas Pooran hits a six during the first ODI match at the Multan Cricket Stadium. AFP
Babar's innings also saw him become the quickest player to notch 17 ODI centuries and the fastest to complete 1,000 ODI runs as captain. His 103 came off 107 balls and was studded with nine fours.
The 27-year-old who is seemingly still on the improve has recently targeted becoming the first player to be ranked No.1 in all three formats of the game.
Babar wasn't the only player to reach three figures in Multan, with West Indies opener Shai Hope scoring his 12th ODI century with a stylish 127 that helped the Caribbean side post a highly competitive score of 305/8.
Shai Hope (L) celebrates with teammate Brandon King after scoring 100 runs during the first ODI match in Multan. AFP
While Hope's innings is unlikely to receive the same amount of plaudits as Babar's, it was a knock of a similar class and really laid the platform for West Indies' big total.
Hope smashed 15 fours and one massive six during his 134-delivery stay, with his 154-run stand with No.3 Shamarh Brooks a particular highlight.
It looked like Pakistan's run chase was going to prove futile when Babar and Mohammad Rizwan were dismissed in quick succession, but finisher Khushdil Shah had other ideas.
The left-hander smashed four sixes and scored an unbeaten 41 during the closing stages of the chase to ensure Pakistan drew first blood in the three-match series.
Mohammad Nawaz congratulates Khushdil Shah (C) after a winning shot while Jayden Seales watches. AP
It was only Khushdil's fifth ODI, but he is making a name for himself as a reliable closer after he performed a similar role with aplomb against Australia in March.
The Pakistan Cricket Board relocated the series to Multan from Rawalpindi last week because of the uncertain political situation in the country. The opposition, led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, is planning rallies in the federal capital Islamabad, which is adjacent to Rawalpindi.
West Indies is further strengthened with the return of Rovman Powell and Romario Shepherd after it routed the Netherlands 3-0 in the last week’s ODI series at Amstelveen. Both Powell and Shepherd missed the series against the Netherlands due to a delay in issuing their visas.
Pakistan awarded an ODI debut to 21-year-old middle-order batter Mohammad Haris, who impressed the selectors in the Pakistan Super League. All-rounders Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz returned to Pakistan’s ODI team after missing the last home series against Australia due to injuries.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Haris, Khushdil Shah, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf.
West Indies: Nicholas Pooran (captain), Shai Hope, Shamarh Brooks, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Jayden Seales, Hayden Walsh Jr., Romario Shepherd.