ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – West Indies were in full-blown crisis yesterday after Babar Azam slammed a record third successive One-Day International hundred to condemn them to 136-run defeat, as Pakistan pulled off an emphatic 3-0 series whitewash and sent the Caribbean side tumbling to number nine in the international rankings.
The 21-year-old right-hander carved out 117 off 106 balls while captain and opener Azhar Ali stroked 101 from 109 deliveries, two innings that powered Pakistan to 308 for six in the third and final ODI at the Sheikh Stayed Stadium – the first time in three years Pakistan surpassed 300 twice in a series.
In the process, Babar became only the second batsman after South African Quinton de Kock to hit centuries in each game of a three-match ODI series, and the third Pakistan player to score three successive ODI hundreds after Zaheer Abbas and Saeed Anwar.
Not for the first time in the series, a lacklustre West Indies never rose to the challenge and crumbled for an embarrassing 172 all out off 44 overs.
Wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin top-scored with a painstaking 37 off 70 deliveries while opener Kraigg Brathwaite got 32 from 44 balls and captain Jason Holder, 26, from 25 balls.
They were 75 for one in the 18th over but with the required run rate already building towards seven per over, no one stepped up to produce the innings needed, and the last nine wickets crashed for 97 runs.
West Indies have now lost every game of the tour following on from their 3-0 whitewash in the preceding Twenty20 series, leaving their tour in turmoil ahead of the three-match Test series starting later this month.
The defeat also saw them slip out of the top eight in the ODI rankings, with Pakistan replacing them. Opting to bat first, Pakistan benefited from an 85-run, opening stand between Sharjeel Khan and Azhar, who finally found the form he craved to lash his third ODI hundred.
Azhar struck eight fours and a six in a lively knock while the enterprising left-handed Sharjeel gathered 38 from 41 deliveries with five boundaries.
Once Sharjeel holed out in the deep in the 15th over off left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, Azhar and Babar took the game by the scruff of its neck in a demoralising 147-run second wicket stand.
Azhar reached his half-century off 61 deliveries in the 20th over with a single to mid-wicket off off-spinner Sunil Narine, and then required another 46 balls to raise three figures in the 38th over.
Babar, meanwhile, with knocks of 120 and 123 in the first two games in Sharjah, extended his superb nick, racing to his first fifty off 48 deliveries before reaching his century off 95 balls in the 44th over.
Azhar was eventually bowled by Holder in the 39th over, missing a swing at a slower ball and Babar followed in the 46th over, bowled by a full length delivery from slow-medium Kieron Pollard, as he failed to connect with an improvised stroke.
In reply, West Indies at no stage looked the part. Brathwaite and debutant Evin Lewis put on 45 off 56 balls for the first wicket but neither really threatened.
The left-handed Lewis struck four fours in 22 from 30 balls and by the time he was bowled by seamer Sohail Khan in the tenth over, the required run rate had risen to six-and-a-half per over.
Darren Bravo, 17, joined Brathwaite to add 30 for the second wicket but again, the stand was a slow one which required 50 deliveries, and it only served to build pressure.
When Brathwaite missed one from off-spinner Shoaib Malik which drifted in and was lbw in the 18th over, West Indies quickly lost four wickets for 42 runs, to slump to 117 for five in the 30th over.
Left-hander Bravo nicked left-arm seamer Wahab Riaz behind in the 21st after 40 balls at the crease and in-form Samuels was run out for 13 after Ramdin pulled out of a single in the 23rd over.
Pollard, without a score of note in the series, meandered for 20 balls before holing out for 11 to long-off off left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, at 117 for five in the 30th.
At this stage the required run rate has risen to nearly 10 runs an over and left the Windies requiring a miracle, which never came. Ramdin struck two fours in adding an unhurried 42 for the sixth wicket with Holder, who counted a four and a six in his innings. (Reuters)