Pakistan 306 for 5 (Babar 103, Imam 65, Joseph 2-55) beat West Indies 305 for 8 (Hope 127, Brooks 70, Rauf 4-77) by five wickets
It was all going to plan, until it suddenly wasn't. The usual hundred from Babar Azam - his fourth in five innings - set Pakistan up for what looked like a fairly straightforward chase of 306, before a middle-order stutter let West Indies back in. In the end, it was left to a gem of a cameo from Khushdil Shah, who smashed four sixes en route an unbeaten 23-ball 41, to see Pakistan home by five wickets and four balls to spare. It meant Shai Hope, whose 12th ODI hundred was classy enough to merit winning the game in its own right, ended up in vain, as the visitors fell just short in an attritional ODI.
The target didn't hold much fear for Pakistan, at least while some combination of the ever-reliable top three were still out in the middle. When Jayden Seales forced Fakhar Zaman to flat-bat one to short point, it brought Imam and Babar together - two men who combined famously to chase down 349 against Australia. The West Indies fast bowlers, though, kept things tight on a Multan surface that looked like it wasn't allowing the ball to come on so easily in the evening, and for a while, it was all Pakistan could do to ensure they didn't lose a cluster of wickets while waiting for batting to get easier.
While Babar took his time en route his first 50 runs, Imam was brisker. After fortuitously surviving a marginal lbw call early on, he took on charge of keeping the asking rate in check, finding regular boundaries and routinely turning the strike over. It took 56 balls for him to get to his half-century, by which time the asking rate was creeping to seven.
Eventually though, the wicket-taking threat that West Indies posed began to fade, and right on cue, Babar whirred into action. By the time Akeal Hosein struck to remove Imam, he was in full flow, inexorably motoring along to his 17th ODI hundred. Mohammad Rizwan, whose lack of form in this format has come under scrutiny - if only for the sharp contrast it presents compared to his T20 record - kept him company. Pakistan were building towards something of a cruise of a finish, with 72 required in nine overs with eight wickets still in hand.
But Alzarri Joseph, perhaps the pick of the West Indies bowlers, drew Babar into mistiming a bouncer, and with 69 to win and a fragile middle order to come, West Indies sniffed an opportunity. The runs dried up and Romario Shepherd got rid of Rizwan soon after, and suddenly an asking rate that looked comfortable was pushing 12 in the final four overs.
It was time for the Khushdil show. Shepherd was put away for three successive sixes - the bottom hand power in each of them particularly impressive - as Pakistan inched closer once more. West Indies struck with the wicket of Shadab Khan and took it to the final over, but by then, the damage Khushdil had inflicted was too much to recover from. Mohammad Nawaz sealed the win with a six over long-on, and Pakistan had survived a scare.
A classy 127 from Hope, which took him past 4,000 runs in ODIs, had powered West Indies to 305. The backbone of the innings was a 154-run partnership between Hope and Shamarh Brooks, two men who effortlessly made the transition from cool Amstelveen to sizzling Multan. It set for the visitors a glorious platform, but Pakistan struck back after Brooks fell for 70 in the 31st over thanks to a superb diving catch from Shadab. Pakistan secured regular wickets from thereon, while also keeping the run-rate in check, but a strong finish from Rovman Powell and Shepherd catapulted West Indies past 300.
Winning the toss, Nicholas Pooran opted to put runs on the board on a surface that appeared conducive to batting. Despite a stuttering start that saw them lose Kyle Mayers early - Shaheen Afridi invariably striking in his first spell - Hope and Brooks grew increasingly comfortable out in the middle after the Powerplay. Once the field spread out, the dot balls - of which there were 40 of in the first 10 overs - vanished.
The Hope-Brooks partnership was as artistic as it was effective. There was some sumptuous strokeplay against both spin and pace bowling, Brooks regularly presenting the full face of the blade in the process of caressing some lovely straight drives, while Hope's dismantling of Hasan Ali and Nawaz meant regular runs were an ever-present feature of the middle overs.
But when, once too often, Brooks looked to power Nawaz against the turn through midwicket, his fortune ran out. A top edge flew up in the general vicinity of short third man, and if the man in question hadn't been Shadab, the stand might have continued on its jolly way. As it was the allrounder put in a dive, left arm outstretched, plucking the ball out of the air and breathing new life into a bowling effort that was beginning to wilt.
Pooran could offer little more than a cameo - though consecutive cow corner sixes off Nawaz did keep the runs ticking over. Brandon King's struggles to get going perhaps recalibrated West Indies expectations of a truly huge score, though by now, Hope had got his hundred with a crunching cover drive and appeared to be truly cutting loose.
But once he fell in the 44th over, Pakistan's death bowlers struck back. Sure, there were a few fours and sixes sprinkled in, but too often for the visitors' liking, Pakistan managed to sneak in tight overs, undoing some of the damage those boundaries inflicted. Even Hasan Ali, who endured another rough day, pulled things back with a brilliant final over. Even so, at the very end, a couple of sixes from Shepherd and Hosein guaranteed the visitors a score in excess of a run-a-ball.
It's a chase that, of late, Pakistan have found particularly comfortable to deal with at home. But for Khushdil, this one might not have been. It was perhaps fitting, then, that at the post-match presentations, Babar refused the Player-of-the-Match award, handing it instead to the man who had ensured his 17th ODI hundred would come in a match-winning cause.