Pakistan, who were playing their first ODI in 13 months were made to work hard for the win as a brilliant century from Brendon Taylor took Zimbabwe close to a famous win. It took some fantastic death bowling from Shaheen Shah Afridi, who took another five wicket haul, and Wahab Riaz to hold the visitors as Pakistan won by 26 runs.
Chasing 282, Zimbabwe’s openers, Brian Chari and Chamu Chibhabha fell to Shaheen’s opening burst with the new ball. Even with two wickets down, Zimbabwean batsmen showed positive intent and took full advantage of the powerplay as they reached 56. Haris Rauf went the distance as he gave away 30 runs in his first 3 overs. Taylor and Craig Ervine knitted a 71-run partnership and set the base for visitors.
Just when Zimbabwe were gaining ascendancy, Craig Ervine played a needless reverse sweep off Imad Wasim and got out on 41. Sean Williams followed him quickly to the pavilion.
With visitors struggling at 115-4, Wesley Madhevere joined Brendon Taylor and stitched a spectacular partnership of 119 runs that took Zimbabwe close to the target. The 20-year-old Madhervere, playing only in his fourth ODI looked unfazed by the situation and played some scintillating shots to score his second half-century. Taylor on the other hand used all his experience and reached his 11th century in ODI’s. His knock included 11 boundaries and three sixes. With this he also became the man with most hundreds for his country overtaking the great Andy Flower.
At one stage, Zimbabwe were ahead in the chase and were sitting at 235-5 at the 45-over mark, and were looking favorites to clinch this one but Pakistan’s death bowling was too hot to handle in the end. Among 9 wickets that Wahab and Shaheen shared among themselves, six of them were bowled. Shaheen finished with figures of 5 for 49 while Wahab ended with 4-41 to his name.
Wahab hit Wesley’s timber with a pacey delivery. Shaheen ended Brendon Taylor’s vigil by deceiving him with a slower ball. He finished with 112 off 117. After that the visitors fell like a house of cards as Pakistani bowlers cleaned up the tail. Zimbabwe last four wickets fell for just 15 runs.
Earlier, Pakistan won the toss and batted first. Openers Abid Ali and Imam-ul-Haq provided a decent start. Abid fell on 21 after being adjudged leg-before wicket to a delivery that came back in sharp. Babar went early too, scoring just 19. Haris Sohail and Imam steadied the ship in the middle order. Imam scored 58 before a mix-up at the crease ended his innings. Haris played some delightful shots and scored 71 off 82. Sohail was earlier dropped by Taylor when he was batting on 9. His innings included six fours and 2 sixes.
The rustiness of not playing an ODI for a year was quite evident as Pakistani batsmen never looked in complete control with the bat and lost wickets whenever they needed to up the scoring rate. Iftikhar and Rizwan perished in an effort to inject some momentum in the innings.
Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf provided the much needed impetus in the end with a 41-run partnership. Imad remained not out on 34 as Pakistan scored 48-runs in the last five overs, while 89 came in the last 10. Pakistan eventually reached 282, a bit short of what they would have liked but they would have taken it considering how the innings went.
It was a decent bowling performance from the Zimbabwean bowlers except for the last part of the innings. Blessing Muzarabani was the pick of the bowlers as he finished with 39 for 2 in his 10. Chisoro bagged two scalps while Richard Ngarava and Sikandar Raza got one each.