Pakistan captain Babar Azam is being praised by cricket fans around the world after spearheading one of the most remarkable one-day international victories in history, to leave Australia's players stunned.
Having gone 1-0 up in the series, the Aussies fell agonisingly short in the second ODI against Pakistan, with late heroics from Khushdil Shah sealing a six-wicket win for the hosts in the early hours of Friday morning (AEDT).
However, the Pakistani side did need to rewrite the record books to seal the extraordinary victory - even managing to do so with six balls to spare.
Aaron Finch's Aussies would have been more than content with their mammoth 348-run total, but with their own skipper leading from the front, Azam's Pakistan managed to pull off their highest successful run chase in ODI history.
Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq both hit brilliant centuries to set up the foundations for a history-making win.
Even before Adam got to the crease though, Pakistan batter Fakhar Zaman (67 off 64) helped lay the foundations after combining with Imam for a 118-run opening partnership.
But Pakistan, for whom Imam carved out 106 off 97 balls and Babar hammered 114 off 83, still needed another hero at the death as Khushdil Shah (27no off 17) smashed lusty blows off Nathan Ellis and Sean Abbott that ensured Pakistan got 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 - with Australia's captain left in awe at the "unbelievable" display from his opponents.
“That opening partnership set the foundation for the game for Pakistan,” he said.
“When you go into the hundreds none down, it allows the rest of the guys to play with freedom and then Babar came in and played an unbelievable knock as well. I thought 350 was a good score but not to be.”
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) March 31, 2022
Congratulations Pakistan for the historic win! Historic chase. Very welldone #PAKvAUS Next up is Sunday! Pakistan wins
— Faisal Javed Khan (@FaisalJavedKhan) March 31, 2022
In the last three years, Babar Azam’s batting average in ODIs is 70plus and strike-rate nearly 100.00 and he has 7 centuries (the joint-most in the world). He absolutely nails this format. #PakvAus
— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) March 31, 2022
He might not be there to take Pakistan home but that was a glorious innings from Babar Azam. I’d say it was worth flying half way arson’s the world to watch but I’m afraid it might land me in the papers again. #PAKvAUS
— Melinda Farrell (@melindafarrell) March 31, 2022
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) March 31, 2022
His 100 made me a bit emotional today,how he keeps on proving himself time and again but still gets the hate.
Ps. Thats how a captain celebrates his teammates when they perform well :)#PAKvAUS pic.twitter.com/EBZ0G0Fl6f
— iimen (@imenarcissistt) March 31, 2022
— M.Ahmed (@MAhmed82907004) March 31, 2022
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) March 31, 2022
Ben McDermott's maiden ton for Australia in vain
Australia's loss came despite an awesome maiden century from Ben McDermott, who belted 104 runs off 108 balls.
McDermott had scored 55 in game one while Travis Head, Tuesday's centurion match-winner, fell just short of posting 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, especially after the innings had started with skipper Aaron Finch missing a full toss first ball and getting trapped lbw by Shaheen Afridi (4-63).
McDermott, who got into a heated verbal exchange with the fired-up Afridi, took 12 balls to get off the mark, but unleashed after that to finish with 10 fours and four sixes, while Head cracked six fours and five sixes.
Their departures didn't noticeably slow the run rate, with Labuschagne and Stoinis keeping the runs flowing.
But the Pakistan chase, McDermott conceded, was just much better paced than their slow-starting effort on Tuesday.
"We put up a good score, but Babar and Imam just batted beautifully tonight, you've just got to give credit where it's due," he shrugged.
None of the Australian bowlers really got to grips with the pair's mastery, with even Adam Zampa being hammered for 71 while taking the crucial wickets of Imam and Mohammad Rizwan.
McDermott said afterwards that the joy of scoring his maiden ODI century in Australian colours, was tempered by the fact the visitors couldn't finish the job.
"Very bittersweet. I thought our total was enough but not to be," McDermott said after the game.
"Really pleased with the way we batted, but we'll come again in two days time," he added, referring to Saturday's decider.
"It would have been really nice to finish off with a win tonight but, obviously, it's great to get a hundred - one of those milestones my father didn't pass."
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