Zimbabwe 246 for 3 (Masakadza 85, Sibanda 54, Taylor 43*) beat Pakistan 244 for 7 (Misbah 83*, Hafeez 70) by 7 wickets.
THE last time Zimbabwe beat Pakistan in any format was 15 years ago.
Yesterday, a strong opening stand of 107 between Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza was the bedrock in their chase of 245. Having dealt with the seamers with ease during the Twenty20s (T20s), Zimbabwe’s chances of victory hung on how they would perform outside their comfort zone.
They looked ill at ease against the spin trio in the T20s, but crucially, this time, they didn’t let the spinners run away with the advantage. Saeed Ajmal managed to strike, but the long interval between breakthroughs meant that Pakistan were always playing catch-up.
In the closing stages, Pakistan had created enough pressure to bring the equation down to a run-a-ball, but a combination of poor fielding and freakish luck meant that it was Zimbabwe’s day.
Masakadza and his partner Sibanda put on an encouraging stand of 107, before Sibanda fell shortly after making his 50. Pakistan brought in Junaid Khan, who missed the T20s, but he came in for some stick. His third over went for 12, which included three boundaries by Masakadza.
The openers were strong through the off side against the left-armers and the boundary barrage prompted captain Misbah-ul-Haq to bring in spin from both ends from the eighth over.
The spinners managed to keep the runs down, but wickets eluded them. Misbah used all five bowlers by the end of 12 overs and the breakthrough finally came in the 24th, when Sibanda stayed back to a Saeed Ajmal ball that spun back in. Sibanda had, in the previous over, smashed Mohammad Irfan over midwicket to bring up his 50, but the bowling change produced a wicket.
Masakadza reached his 50 the following over and at the halfway stage, having got the required start and a well-set batsman, all Zimbabwe needed was the composure to close out the chase.
Pakistan’s innings was a story of three parts. They found runs hard to come by at the start due to steady seam bowling, recovered in the middle, thanks to Mohammad Hafeez’s brisk half-century, and stumbled towards the end, failing to accelerate due to the pressure caused by the sudden fall of wickets.
It was a mixed day for Zimbabwe in the field with a series of drops at the start. While the Pakistan openers failed to capitalise on those let-offs, the drop that really cost Zimbabwe was Mohammad Hafeez’s, when on 10. He went on to score 70, putting Pakistan on course for a competitive total.
Prosper Utseya gave Zimbabwe their first breakthrough when Shehzad was beaten and stumped. Jamshed’s wicket was reward for some probing seam bowling by Tendai Chatara, who drew the left-hander forward for the drive and induced a thin edge to the keeper.
Hafeez found early momentum with three sixes off Utseya, down the ground, though he was lucky the second one wasn’t pouched at the boundary’s edge.
Hafeez was strong through the off side, punishing the offspinners in particular. He picked 48 of his 70 runs off Utseya and Malcolm Waller, picking the large gaps square of the wicket on the off side. Brendan Taylor, perhaps sensing a big partnership, kept rotating his bowlers, using as many as eight bowlers by 31 overs. The part-timer, Hamilton Masakadza, should have had Hafeez on 55, but Taylor, who stood up to the stumps, failed to gather the ball.
Umar Amin was run out trying to complete a second run. Misbah’s innings had a high percentage of singles — he had scored only two fours till the 46th over and yet had managed a decent strike-rate of 81,69. Yet, he saved his big hitting only for the final over, mowing Panyangara for massive blows over the on side to take Pakistan to 244.
Zimbabwe will be pleased they restricted Pakistan to this score after the Hafeez-Misbah partnership, but their chances of chasing it down would depend on how they tackle Pakistan’s spin-heavy attack that
caused them much discomfort in the T20 series that concluded before.