HARARE: After a close encounter in the opening fixture of their three-match Twenty20 International series, Pakistan will be aware of Zimbabwe’s uncanny ability of surprising strong opponents when the two sides clash in the second game here on Friday.
Zimbabwe found themselves in a commanding position during different phases of the game on Wednesday on a rather sluggish pitch at the Harare Sports Club. Despite a controlled bowling performance, fielders and batters failed to back them while Pakistan still managed to defend a modest 149-7 as the visitors emerged victorious by 11 runs.
The hosts will fancy a chance at restoring parity in the second game as Pakistan’s middle order is struggling to fire, resulting in the team being heavily dependent on captain Babar Azam and his opening partner Mohammad Rizwan to do the majority of the damage.
Rizwan’s single-handed efforts of unbeaten 82 from 61 balls to help Pakistan reach a competitive total of 149-7 gave the visitors a fighting chance to make a comeback with the ball.
Zimbabwe’s Tinashe Kamunhukamwe (29), Craig Ervine (34), and Luke Jongwe (30 not out) resurrected the hopes of a victory before Usman Qadir foiled their plans as he triggered a middle-order implosion. The leg-spinner returned excellent figures of three for 29 while fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain grabbed 2-27 as Pakistan came out on the top with a tense 11-run win to go 1-0 up in the series.
Pakistan have a proud record of maintaining an unblemished record against Zimbabwe with the latest victory being their 15th on the trot against the African country.
Rizwan, who was the undisputed man-of-the-match, pointed Pakistan’s struggles in the series opener were attributed to the conditions, which were different to what they had encountered during the tour of South Africa.
“There is always a home conditions advantage but we have world-class bowlers who have adjusted really well to the changed conditions from South Africa,” Rizwan remarked. “The batters too have an idea of the pitch performs and hopefully we will post a huge target in the next match.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe captain Sean Williams blamed poor fielding as the reason of his team’s defeat:
“It is inexcusable the number of catches we dropped which ultimately cost us the game,” Williams lamented after the Wednesday’s game. “We need to improve our fielding. We will go back to the drawing board and improve better in the second match.”