Pakistan 204-4 (Sarfraz Ahmed 89*, A Evans 3 for 23) beat Scotland 156-6 (M Leask 38*, Shadab Khan 2 for 25) by 48 runs
Two days after the biggest result in their history, Scotland had the chance to do it all over again. After sending England homeward to think again on Sunday, the visit of Pakistan gave an opportunity to add the scalp of the best T20I team in the world; never mind Associate cricket, in facing the two sides at the top of the ICC rankings in each format in such close proximity, Scotland was entering territory no team in the Full Member world has charted.
It was Pakistan who claimed the spoils in the first of the two-match series at The Grange, however, as Sarfraz Ahmed’s unbeaten 89 together with 53 from Shoaib Malik saw the visitors to victory. Despite a strong start to the Scotland chase, the experienced pairing’s partnership of 96 proved the biggest difference as Pakistan eased to a 48-run win.
Visiting captain Sarfraz had elected to bat after winning the toss and openers Fakhar Zaman and Ahmed Shehzad settled quickly, Zaman skipping down the track to drive Mark Watt for the first boundary of the innings in the second over. Hamza Tahir was given a tough baptism after being introduced for his first bowl in international cricket, going for three boundaries and then a six, and when Zaman was dropped by Michael Leask in the next over, Scotland had missed a crucial opportunity for the early breakthrough.
Redemption came from the very next ball, however, as Shehzad (14) cut straight to Richie Berrington at point, and when Zaman’s steepling top-edge was safely pouched by Matthew Cross, Ali Evans had a second wicket and Pakistan were 46 for 2.
Hussain Talat (18) followed, caught by Tahir off Berrington, but from then on Sarfraz and Malik took control, lighting up the later overs with some lusty blows. The Pakistan captain’s fifty arrived via a huge straight six at the start of the 17th before a strike from Malik went even further as he reached his own half-century a few balls later. Although Malik (53) was caught by Leask as he attempted to go over the top again in the penultimate over, the two had powered the Pakistan innings toward a total of above 200.
Scotland’s reply began well as both Kyle Coetzer and George Munsey found their stride. Coetzer’s terrific back-foot punch to the boundary off Muhammad Amir was followed by a six into the sightscreen as the team fifty arrived in only 4.3 overs, but Munsey’s departure at the start of the sixth for 25, caught by Sarfraz off Hassan Ali, stalled their early momentum.
Richie Berrington (3) was next to fall as leg-spinner Shadab Khan pinned him in front with a first-ball googly, and when Coetzer (31) fell too, caught at long-on by Asif Ali, Scotland had been reduced to 69 for 3. With the spinners keeping things tight the required run-rate grew, and despite Michael Leask’s attacking 38* Scotland ended their innings well short of the target.
As their bowlers applied the shackles to Scotland’s scoring in the middle overs, Pakistan were demonstrating exactly why they are the number one ranked side in the world. The hosts, as Grant Bradburn said after the game, have been left with some thinking of their own to do.
Tomorrow, though, is another day – one which brings his side another chance to rewrite history.