LAHORE  - Sparkling centuries by skipper Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq steered Pakistan to highest run-chase victory as they defeated Australia by 6 wickets in the second One-Day International here at Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.

This record-breaking triumph also helped Pakistan stay alive in the three-match ODI series as they levelled it 1-1. Now the decisive third ODI will be played on tomorrow (Saturday) here at the Gaddafi Stadium. It can prove a clash of titans as both the sides will try their best to win the decider and take the series 2-1.

It were centuries of opener Imam-ul-Haq (106) and player of the match Babar Azam (114) that made the day for Pakistan while their middle-order finished the match in style as they safely landed Pakistan team to home with six balls to spare and still six wickets in hand.

In the high-scoring second ODI, Pakistan achieved a milestone by successfully chasing the highest target till today. The last highest ever run-chase by Men in Green was against Bangladesh, when they chased 329 runs successfully. Overall, it was the 12th highest run-chase of the cricketing world.

Chasing the huge total of 349 runs, openers Imam and Fakhar Zaman provided Pakistan a solid start as they gathered 118 runs for the first-wicket stand. Marcus Stoinis took the first wicket for Australia when Fakhar was playing at 67 as he played 64 balls and hit 7 fours and 2 sixes.

The next partnership by the home side was also ‘remarkable one’ as they collected 111 runs for the second-wicket partnership. Imam was the second man, who gifted his wicket to Adam Zampa. He played 97 balls to score 106 runs with the help of 6 fours and 3 sixes.

Pakistan’s one of the responsible pairs - Babar Azam and wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan - then took the responsibility and kept the scoreboard ticking and added 80 runs for the third-wicket stand to take Pakistan total to 309. This time, Babar was trapped by Nathan Ellis at 114 runs, which he gathered in 83 balls, smashing 11 fours and one six.

With this swashbuckling knock of 114 runs, captain Babar got his name registered in cricket record books as he scored his 15th ODI century as quickest batsman of the world. He reached this landmark achievement in the 83rd innings of his ODI career. He also surpassed South Africa’s Hashim Amla in the list of taking the fewest innings to score 15th ODI hundred. Amla had scored his 15 centuries in 86 innings.

After the departure of Babar Azam, Khushdil Shah (27) and Iftikhar Ahmed (11) came to the crease and both entertained the electrifying crowd with tremendous shots. Khushdil Shah especially smashed some cracking sixes while Iftikhar Ahmed hammered fabulous four to guide Pakistan to a 6-wicket victory. Adam Zampa bagged 2 wickets for 71 while Nathan Ellis and Marcus Stoinis took one scalp each.

Earlier put into bat, Ben McDermott cracked a enterprising century to lead Australia to 348/8 in 50 overs. McDermott completed his century (104) in 108 balls that included 10 fours and 4 towering sixes.

Left-handed middle-order Travis Head and top Test player Marnus Labuchagne also contributed significant runs in their team’s total. Head hammered 70-ball 89 runs with the help of 6 boundaries and 5 sixes while Labuschagne also struck his fourth ODI half-century as he slammed 49-ball 59 hitting 5 fours.

McDermott and Travis Head together stitched impressive 162 runs for the second-wicket stand after skipper Aaron Finch was removed for zero by pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi in his first over. Stoinis, who earlier struggled with the bat in the first game, went on to score 49 off 33 balls to guide Finch-led squad to 348/7 in their allotted 50 overs. None of the Aussie tail-enders, except Sean Abbott (28), could cross the double figures. For the visiting side, Shaheen Afridi led the way with 4 wickets for 63, while Mohammad Wasim Jr picked 2 wickets for 56. Emerging players Zahid Mahmood and Khushdil Shah got one scalp each.

Scores in brief

PAKISTAN 352 for 4 (Babar 114, Imam 106) beat AUSTRALIA 348 for 8 (McDermott 104, Head 89, Labuschagne 59, Afridi 4-63) by 6 wickets.