Shoaib Malik on Friday made an impressive return to Twenty20 cricket with a half-century, carrying Pakistan to five-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the first clash of a three-match series.
Malik, who scored 58 not out off 45 balls with five fours, was brought back after Pakistan last year lost six of seven completed Twenty20 internationals without him.
The hosts need to beat Bangladesh 3-0 in the series to retain their world No. 1 ranking.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam, the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 batsman, was out for his first career duck when he was caught behind off the second ball, but Malik carried the home team to 142-5 in 19.3 overs.
“The victory was very important and the way the bowlers did, it was brilliant,” Babar said. “We didn’t expect the pitch would be this much slow, but the way our bowlers planned for it, I give them all the credit. Malik paced his innings very well and helped us to achieve the target.”
Debutant opening batsman Ahsan Ali also made a fine 36, but recalled 39-year-old Mohammad Hafeez could score only 17 in his first Twenty20 international since November 2018.
The match was played in Lahore, the same venue where a second-string Sri Lanka won 3-0 in October last year and Babar was named captain in place of Sarfaraz Ahmed, but Babar lost 2-0 in his debut series as captain, and the selectors were forced to recall Malik and Hafeez.
Earlier, Bangladesh struggled to reach 141-5 against Pakistan’s young pace attack and leg-spinner Shadab Khan after captain Mahmudullah won the toss and elected to bat on a slow wicket.
“The wicket was surprising, and it was hard to play shots once the ball got older and softer,” Mahmudullah said.
“We were about 15 runs short today and gave away too many boundaries,” he said. “We missed a few run-out chances and catch chances.”
Opening pair Mohammad Naim (43) and Tamim Iqbal (39) featured in a 71-run stand, but they consumed more than half of the overs.
Tamim was run out in the 11th over, while Naim holed out in the deep in the 15th over.
Shadab finished with 1-26.
Young pacemen Shaheen Afridi (1-23) and debutant Haris Rauf (1-32) bowled well in the late overs and never allowed Bangladesh to accelerate.
Haris, who impressed the selectors with his pace in the Big Bash, claimed his first international wicket when he had Afif Hossain (9) clean-bowled in the 18th over.
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