ZIMBABWE – Over the years, encounters between Pakistan and Zimbabwe across formats have culminated in some thrilling contests. Familiarity with its opponent hasn’t borne fruit for Zimbabwe, though, and it is yet to register a win in eight matches against Pakistan in the Twenty20 format.
Mohammad Rizwan’s intrepid unbeaten 33 and left-arm spinner Imad Wasim’s spell of 4 for 11 kept Pakistan’s unbeaten T20 International record against the host intact in the first match of the two-match series on Sunday. Come Tuesday (September 29), Zimbabwe has the chance to change that statistic.
Despite the margin of victories getting smaller – 25 runs, 19 runs, five wickets and two wickets, and the latest being 13 runs – Zimbabwe has just fallen short of crossing the line.
Zimbabwe did well to restrict Pakistan to 136 for 8 on Sunday with Chamu Chibhabha playing an important role, accounting for the top three. The host was in a dominant position but its batsmen were left searching for answers against Wasim’s left-arm spin, eventually reaching 123 for 9 when it ran out of time.
After Pakistan was reduced to 29 for 3 in the sixth over, the middle order stood up with Shoaib Malik (35), Umar Akmal (14) and Rizwan chipping in with vital contributions. In contrast, on a day when Zimbabwe’s bowlers were outstanding, the batting let it down.
Wasim, in just his fourth match, and Sohail Tanvir sent back Zimbabwe’s top five – and its most reputed batsmen – with just 66 on the board.
Richmond Mutumbami, the wicketkeeper who made a comeback to Zimbabwe’s limited-overs squads at the expense of Regis Chakabva, dropped after a string of low scores against New Zealand, scored just nine.
Hamilton Masakadza and captain Elton Chigumbura offered the staunchest resistance. Masakadza tried to steady the chase with a run-a-ball 25 and while wickets fell at the other end, Chigumbura kept Zimbabwe in the game with a 28-ball 31. He took the chase to the last over with 16 runs required, which ultimately proved to be a wee bit much with just two wickets in hand.
“We took the wrong options at the wrong time, and as a result we lost the game,” said Chigumbura after the game.
“I’m not going to sit here and make excuses, at the end of the day we were chasing 137 and, despite how well they bowled and how well their spinner bowled, it’s just a score that you need to get. We were supposed to get that score, with the kind of players we have.”
While Pakistan will look at prolonging its unbeaten run in the format against Zimbabwe, the host will bank on the experience of its senior players to turn the tide. After all, given the progress Zimbabwe has made as a team this year, it would be desperate to carry some momentum into the three-match One-Day International series due to begin on October 1.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Mukhtar Ahmed, Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik, Amir Yamin, Mohammad Irfan, Bilal Asif, Wahab Riaz, Imad Wasim, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Imran Khan.
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza Butt, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Hamilton Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Taurai Muzarabani, John Nyumbu, Tinashe Panyangara, Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.