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Babar’s 90 not enough as Australia edge Pakistan to seal World Cup warm-up

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HYDERABAD: Fifties from Iftikhar Ahmed, Babar Azam and Mohammad Nawaz were not enough as five-time champions Australia edged out Pakistan by 14 runs in the warm-up match to boast their preparations for the ICC World Cup 2023.

Set to chase a daunting total of 352, Pakistan narrowly missed pulling off a confidence-boosting victory as they were bundled out on 337 in response.

Pakistan got off to a dismal start to the pursuit as they lost four wickets with just 83 runs on the board in the 15th over.

Following the slump, Pakistan’s regular captain Babar Azam joined Iftikhar Ahmed in the middle and the pair launched an astonishing recovery.

Babar and Iftikhar put together brisk 144 runs, the majority of which, however, came against part-time bowlers like Marnus Labuschagne, David Warner and Steve Smith.

The pair dominated the part-time bowlers and had put Pakistan in command before Labuschagne broke the stand by dismissing Iftikhar, who scored 83 in 85 balls, hitting six boundaries and four sixes.

Babar, on the other hand, put on a brief partnership with Salman Ali Agha before opting to retire by the end of the 36th over.

He remained the top-scorer for Pakistan with a quickfire 90 which came off 59 balls and laced with 11 boundaries and two sixes.

Following Babar’s departure, Australia brought in their main bowlers and piled up pressure on the Pakistan batting tail, which crumbled and yielded wickets at regular intervals, resulting in the Green Shirts being bowled out in the 48th over.

Marnus Labuschagne led the bowling attack for Australia with three wickets, followed by Pat Cummins and Mitchell Marsh with two each while Sean Abbott and Glenn Maxwell made one scalp each.

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Australian batters justified the decision of their captain Pat Cummins to bowl first as they made the most of the batting-friendly pitch to pile up a massive total in their last warm-up fixture before they take on hosts India in the campaign opener on Sunday.

Australia’s opening pair of David Warner and Mitchell Marsh scripted a solid start to their innings as they dominated the Pakistan bowlers amid their brisk 83-run partnership.

Australian openers appeared to be heading towards the 100-run mark before Usama Mir pulled things back as he removed both set batters in his successive overs to mark Pakistan’s comeback.

Warner scored a 33-ball 48, hitting four boundaries and three sixes while Marsh played a cautious 31-run knock.

With the scoreboard reading 92/2 in 14.1 overs, experienced batter Steve Smith joined forces with Marnus Labuschagne and the duo kept Australia in command with a vital third-wicket partnership.

Smith (27) and Labuschagne (40) carried the momentum and added 59 runs to the total before they both fell in consecutive overs as Australia slipped to 153/4 in the 25th over.

Pakistan bowlers were looking confident to make a comeback after back-to-back success but Glenn Maxwell, coming out to at number six, launched an astounding counterattack.

The all-rounder smashed four boundaries and six sixes on his way to top score for Australia with a 71-ball 77 before finally perishing in the 41st over with 255 runs on the board.

He also stitched a magnificent 83-run partnership with Cameron Green, who, alongside Josh Inglis, added vital runs for Australia at the backend and returned with an unbeaten half-century.

Green scored 50 not out in 40 balls while Inglis fell just shy of his half-century as he scored 48 off just 30 deliveries.

Usama Mir was the pick among the bowlers for Pakistan, claiming 2/31 in his five while Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz picked one each.

READ: Aamer Jamal’s blitz powers Pakistan Shaheens to Asian Games semi-final

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