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Pakistan level ODI series with Australia as Babar Azam leads record run chase | Cricket

Ben McDermott’s maiden ODI century for Australia proved to be in vain as captain Babar Azam masterminded Pakistan’s masterful record run chase in a thrilling six-wicket win in Lahore.

Pursuing Australia’s formidable total of 8-348 in Thursday’s second match of the series, Imam-ul-Haq cracked his second century in three days and Babar hammered a 73-ball ton to fashion Pakistan’s highest-ever successful ODI run pursuit.

Their dazzling efforts in Pakistan’s 4-352 levelled the series at 1-1 and put McDermott’s classy knock into the shade after he had scored 104 off 108 balls in just his fourth international appearance.

But Pakistan, for whom Imam scored 106 off 97 balls and Babar hammered 114 off 83, still needed another hero at the death as Khushdil Shah (27 not out) smashed the lusty blows off Nathan Ellis and Sean Abbott that saw Pakistan home on the last ball of the penultimate over.

The win topped Pakistan’s previous best run chase – 7-327 against Bangladesh in Mirpur eight years ago – and set up what should be a thrilling series decider in Lahore on Saturday.

Earlier, McDermott and Travis Head had tormented the Pakistan bowlers for the second straight match. McDermott had scored 55 in game one while Head, Tuesday’s match winner with 101 from 72 balls, fell just short of consecutive centuries when he was dismissed for 89 off 70 balls.

Marnus Labuschagne (59 off 49 balls) and Marcus Stoinis (49 off 33 balls) also joined in on the fun to leave Australia feeling they were in the box seat.

McDermott’s century at Gaddafi Stadium came 32 years after his father Craig McDermott snared 5-44 at the same ground to inspire Australia to an 18-run victory over Pakistan.

“It’s lovely to get the first [century] and an absolute privilege to do it out there with a good mate in Marnus as well,” Ben McDermott told the host broadcaster.

Ben McDermott hit a century on a ground where his father, Craig, excelled 32 years ago.
Ben McDermott hit a century on a ground where his father, Craig, excelled 32 years ago. Photograph: Rahat Dar/EPA

The innings started off badly for Australia after skipper Aaron Finch missed a full toss and was trapped lbw by Shaheen Afridi (4-63) for a first-ball duck.

Afridi was fired up early, particularly at the end of the fifth over when he was struck down the ground for four by McDermott. After exchanging words with the batter, Afridi walked into the path of Head with the intent of bumping into him.

Head turned his body at the last moment to avoid impact, and the incident only served to further motivate the Australian pair. McDermott took 12 balls to get off the mark, but he unleashed after that to finish with 10 fours and four sixes.

Head hit six fours and five sixes in his blistering knock. Their departures didn’t noticeably slow the run rate, with Labuschagne and Stoinis keeping the runs flowing.

McDermott, Head and Labuschagne were considered fringe ODI players before the current series, but their form will help boost their chances of becoming regulars leading into the 2023 50-over World Cup.

Their performances further showcased Australia’s depth on a white-ball tour in which star batters David Warner (rested) and Steve Smith (elbow) are missing.

Mitch Marsh (hip), Josh Inglis and Ashton Agar (both Covid) are also grounded, while Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood have been rested from the white-ball games.

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