- Aaron Finch and Haris Sohail press conferences available for download here
Sharjah, 22 March:
Australian skipper Aaron Finch hit a masterly hundred which helped his team upstage a new-look Pakistan side by eight wickets and overshadow a maiden century from Haris Sohail in the first one-day international at Sharjah Stadium on Friday.
Haris's 115-ball unbeaten 101 steered Pakistan to an impressive looking 280-5 in their 50 overs but Finch used all his experience to score 116 off 135 balls with eight fours and four sixes to help Australia chase down the target for the loss of just two wickets with an over to spare.
The win gives Australia a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Pakistan had two debutants in their side, opener Shan Masood and medium pacer Mohammad Abbas -- both rewarded for their superb showings at domestic and Test levels. The hosts have also rested six of their main players for the series including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019.
Finch, whose side had beaten India in India 3-2 earlier this month, led the chase by putting 63 for the opening-wicket with Usman Khawaja who made 24 and then a match defining 172-run stand for the second-wicket with Shaun Marsh.
Marsh ensured that the good work does not go waste after Finch fell, caught behind off Abbas for his maiden wicket. With 46 needed for victory Marsh and Peter Handscomb (30 not out) helped Australia cross the line.
Marsh hit four boundaries and two sixes in his 102-ball knock of 91 not out and ably supported Finch in the run chase, the left-hander played the winning shot, a couple off Mohammad Amir on the last ball of the 49th over to seal Australia’s win.
Pakistan's spin-cum pace attack could not penetrate through Australia's top-order on an unresponsive pitch at the Sharjah Stadium.
Finch praised Marsh.
"It was a pretty good wicket but it started to take spin and we were able to chase down the target for the loss of two wickets which is very admirable," said Finch.
Pakistan's stand-in captain Shoaib Malik rued lack of wickets at the top.
"I think we did not get early wickets and the way Finch and Marsh headed the chase was admirable," said Malik. "They held the innings which made the job easier.
Amir went wicket-less while Abbas and Ashraf shared a wicket apiece.
"I congratulate Haris for scoring a hundred and that proves that we have talent."
Pakistan's total was built around a brilliant hundred by Haris who held the innings together playing for the first time since returning home from the tour of South Africa due to a knee injury.
Haris added 33 for the second-wicket with Shan Masood (62-ball 40 with five boundaries) before building the innings during his 98-run stand with another comeback boy Umar Akmal. Umar was lucky to be dropped on 12 by Handscomb off a luckless Nathan Lyon.
Australian skipper Finch brought Lyon as early as in the seventh over and the move was rewarded with Imam-ul-Haq's wicket who gave a return catch to the off-spinner after scoring 17.
The dropped catch helped Umar take the attack to the Australian bowlers, the right-hander smashed three sixes off fast bowler Jhye Richardson. But two runs short of his long-awaited half-century Umar holed out, with Nathan Coulter-Nile taking his wicket.
Coulter-Nile finished with 2-61 off his ten overs.
Haris took a single to complete a well-deserved hundred, improving on his previous highest ODI score of 89 not out he made against Zimbabwe in Lahore four years ago.
Haris added another 49 with Faheem Ashraf who made a robust 26-ball 28 with four boundaries but it was Imad Wasim who gave the real impetus to the innings, smashing four boundaries and a six in his 13-ball 28 not out.
That helped Pakistan amass 55 in the last five overs.
The remaining matches are in Sharjah (Sunday), Abu Dhabi (March 27) and Dubai (March 29 and 31).
Australia beat Pakistan by eight wickets
Pakistan 280-5 in 50 overs (Haris Sohail 112 not out, Umar Akmal 48, Shan Masood 40)
Australia 281-2 in 49 overs (Aaron Finch 116 , Shaun Marsh 91 not out)