New Delhi: Pakistan faced a tough challenge from the Netherlands in the second match of the ICC ODI World Cup, 2023, played at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad on Friday, 6 October. The Netherlands won the toss and opted to bowl first, hoping to exploit the conditions and put pressure on Pakistan’s batting line-up. Their plan worked as they reduced Pakistan to 38 for 3 in the ninth over, dismissing both the openers Imam ul Haq and Fakhar Zaman and the captain Babar Azam cheaply.
However, Pakistan found a savior in Saud Shakeel, who was playing his first World Cup match. The left-handed batsman counter-attacked the Netherlands bowlers with his aggressive strokeplay and forged a crucial 120-run partnership with Mohammad Rizwan for the fourth wicket. Saud Shakeel reached his half-century in just 32 balls, which was the second-fastest fifty by a Pakistani batsman in World Cup history. The fastest was by Shahid Afridi, who scored a 27-ball fifty against Kenya in 2011.
Saud Shakeel continued his onslaught and scored 68 runs off 52 balls, hitting nine fours and one six. He was eventually dismissed by Pieter Seelaar in the 29th over, but not before he had given Pakistan a platform to build on. His knock was also praised by former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja, who tweeted: “Saud Shakeel is a class act. Plays proper cricket shots and has a good range. A very good find for Pakistan.”
Saud Shakeel’s impressive innings have shown that he has the potential to be a reliable middle-order batsman for Pakistan in the future. Along with Iftikhar Ahmed and Mohammad Rizwan, he has given the Pakistan team management some options to choose from. However, his efforts were not enough to take Pakistan to a big total, as they were bowled out for 286 in 48.4 overs. The Netherlands will now chase the target with confidence, knowing that they have already troubled Pakistan’s top order.