HARARE: Zimbabwe beat Pakistan by seven wickets on Tuesday as Sean Williams launched a six over long-on to secure the lowly-ranked African team's first one-day international win in a bilateral series against the Pakistanis in 15 years.
Williams capped a solid all-around performance by the Zimbabweans, who restricted Pakistan to a below-par 244-7 at Harare Sports Club and then batted confidently and with composure to reach 246-3 and beat their opposition for the first time since 1998.
Hamilton Masakadza made 85 and fellow opener Vusi Sibanda 54 to anchor the chase, and captain Brendan Taylor was 43 not out alongside Williams (39 not out) to guide their team home with 10 balls to spare.
“It's a pretty awesome feeling,” Taylor said.
“To beat the quality team that they've got, it shows we're doing the right thing.”
Zimbabwe not only overcame poor form where it had only won three ODI games since late 2011 before Tuesday, but also significant off-field problems having only just avoided a strike by players ahead of this tour after they complained of being underpaid and poorly treated in the struggling country. Zimbabwe cricket has battled for years.
But having lost the Twenty20 series against Pakistan comfortably, the home team responded to take the lead in the three-match one-day series. Zimbabwe hasn't won an ODI series over a test team other than Bangladesh since 2001, when it beat New Zealand.
Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq's 83 not out and Mohammad Hafeez's 70 earlier were in vain for the tourists, as was spinner Saeed Ajmal's 2-44 with the ball.
“We could have played better but still I think that Zimbabwe deserved that,” Misbah said.
Zimbabwe had lost its last three ODI series against Pakistan 3-0, 5-0 and 5-0 before seamers Tendai Chatara and Brian Vitori took two wickets each to restrict Pakistan and give the hosts a chance of victory on a good batting strip.
Misbah and Hafeez had given the tourists some impetus in their 99-run partnership for the third wicket but Zimbabwe kept Pakistan largely in check. Misbah's 83 not out from 85 deliveries came with three fours and two sixes on his return to lead the team after sitting out the T20 series. Hafeez hit 70 from 71 balls with six fours and three sixes.
Other than that, there was little else from Pakistan's batsmen as the openers struggled to score and the middle and lower order were removed cheaply.
Masakadza made 85 with nine fours and a six and shared a 107-run opening partnership with Sibanda to set the platform, and only Timycen Maruma failed out of Zimbabwe's top five.
Williams suggested it would work out for Zimbabwe when he bottom-edged a delivery onto his leg stump in the 45th over, but the ball skipped away to the boundary and the bails stayed on. The left-hander clubbed the winning runs off Mohammad Irfan, ripped off his helmet, punched the air and celebrated with his captain.
Taylor said “I couldn't be happier.”
Scores: Pakistan 244 for seven in 50 overs (Misbah-ul-Haq 83 not out, Mohammad Hafeez 70; T. Chatara 2-32)
Zimbabwe 246 for three in 48.2 overs (H. Masakadza 85, V. Sibanda 54).
Zimbabwe lead three-match series 1-0.
Teams: Zimbabwe: Brendan Taylor (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Timycen Maruma, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya, Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara, Brian Vitori.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Amin, Haris Sohail, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan