It isn’t surprising that Zimbabwe haven’t beaten Pakistan in international cricket over the past 15 years. They haven’t been a strong force they once were in the 90’s owing to the changing political scenario in the country. On Tuesday though they gave glimpses of the fact that on their good day, they can still surprise the best. In a highly impressive performance in the first ODI against Pakistan at Harare, Zimbabwe shone both with bat and ball, first reducing the hosts to 244 and then chasing down the target by putting up a good combined batting effort.
In the T20s as well, Zimbabwe competed well with Pakistan. They were at ease against the pacers but faltered against the spinners. On Tuesday as well, their ability to withstand the pressure from Pakistan’s highly-rated spinners was to determine the result of the clash. For a change, they managed to handle the pressure in a professional manner, and ended up upsetting the unpredictable Pakistanis. Saeed Ajmal was the only spinner from the visitors’ side to pick up wickets, but even those came at distant intervals. Mohammad Hafeez was economical without being threatening which Shahid Afridi was taken for a number of runs.
Chasing 245, Zimbabwe needed a good start to set them on their way, and at least one batsman to carry on to a big score. The experienced Hamilton Masakadza took up the responsibility and came up with a wonderfully composed knock. His 85 off 104 balls was the defining innings of the match. While Masakadza was excellent, the good support he got from the rest of the batting order was also of paramount importance, which ensured that there was no collapse in store for the hosts, unlike in the T20 that preceded the ODIs.
Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda added 107 for the opening wicket in 24 overs, after which all they needed to do was bat sensibly. And, they did exactly that. Even after Sibanda fell, Masakadza carried on. Skipper Brendan Taylor, who came in at number three, continued to play himself back into form. His unbeaten 43 off 59 meant that there was no pressure on the hosts. Sean Williams also chipped in with an unbeaten cameo – 39 off 23 balls, which enabled Zimbabwe to march towards victory with ease. The seven-wicket win was a fair indication of Zimbabwe’s domination in the game.
As for Pakistan, they were below par in all departments of the game. Their openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad hung around for the better part of 15 overs, but could add only 56 in that duration. Zimbabwe did bowl tightly, but without doubt Pakistan should have done much better with the bat. Although Mohammad Hafeez and Mishab-Ul-Haq made 70 and 83 not out respectively, a total of 244 for 7 was a fair indication of their batting struggles. They were pathetic in the field, dropping a number of catches, which made the task simpler for Zimbabwe. The inability of the spinners to dominate was the last straw in the back for a Pakistan.
--By A Cricket Analyst