LAHORE: The Zimbabwe tour goes on smoothly with Pakistan taking an unbeatable 1-0 lead in the T20 series.
With the greenshirts winning the first match by five wickets at the 27000-capacity Gaddafi Stadium on Friday, the second Twenty20 against Zimbabwe, for which Pakistan could make a couple of changes, will be held on Sunday at the same venue.
The first T20 was not only a success story in terms of security measures taken by the government but Pakistan win has just left the greenshirts only one win away from retaining the fifth spot in the T20 rankings.
Paceman Bilawal Bhatti will most probably face the axe as his performance remained below par in the first T20 wherein opener Mukhtar Ahmed hit a rapid 83 to steer the home team to an easy victory.
The underperforming fast bowler may be replaced with either young all-rounder Imad Wasim or upcoming all-rounder Hammad Azam.
Though performances of middle-order batsmen Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez were disappointing, the trio, particularly Umar and Hafeez, are likely to get more chances.
However, Malik may also be axed to adjust up and coming Nauman Anwar.
Head coach Waqar Younis also hinted at the possible changes for the next T20 when he said in a post-match news conference that changes could be made for the second match to give chance to other players.
The coach while admitting that flaws in batting and fielding departments still existed said players had to work hard on their shortcomings.
On the other hand, Waqar hardly expressed any concerns about poor showing by trio of Hafeez, Umar and Malik who lost wickets despite the fact that there was no pressure on them, for openers Mukhtar and Ahmed Shehzad provided a high-flying opening start of 142 while chasing the target of 173.
Had Mukhtar and Shehzad not provided an excellent start, Pakistan could have been struggling as Zimbabwe had set a challenging total for them thanks to their captain Elton Chigumbura who played a very responsible knock of 54.
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Also, Zimbabwe captain Chigumbura admitted that Pakistan openers caused a real damage to his team by collecting 142 runs in a record-equalling partnership.
“In T20 format, a 100-run partnership is always vital,” he said while stating that his decision to bat first was right and his planning was disrupted by Pakistan openers in the first six overs.
Chigumbura vowed to make a comeback in the series after working on their mistakes they committed in the first T20.
It must be kept in mind that Pakistan bowlers did not bowl to their potential failing to prevent Zimbabweans from setting a big total. The next T20 will be a challenge for them.
|Pakistan cricketers in action during a training session on the eve of the second T20 against Zimbabwe.—AFP|
However, paceman Mohammad Sami who was also included in the team after three years justified his selection by emerging as the most successful bowler of the match with three for 36 in four overs.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabweans held a three-hour long training session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Saturday but training for Pakistan players was optional.
However, three players Nauman Anwar, Imad and Hammad who were not part of the Friday’s match along with Pakistan ODI captain Azhar Ali and middle-order batsman Haris Sohail took part in a practice session.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and police officials held a meeting on Saturday to review arrangements for removing flaws noted on Friday. Later on, the PCB chief operating officer Subhan Ahmad told reporters that edibles would be provided in all enclosures in the next match.
Subhan said that spectators would get better facilities in the remaining part of the series, adding that the PCB would again make contact with other Test-playing nations to tour Pakistan without any fear.
On the other hand, coach Waqar stating that the occasion was a memorable one and made Pakistan a proud nation was also all praise for the security arrangements and the support Lahorites bestowed on both the hosts and visiting team.
“The way Lahore rose for us was simply the best. We are proud of our people and our nation. I had said [before the match] that people should keep some patience as they might face minor problems [amid extra security] but I am happy everything went well,” maintained the coach.
“No doubt that the home crowd and home ground spark different emotions in you. The way we were welcomed on our way to the Gaddafi Stadium, it was hard to control the emotions. “We did speak in the morning (on Friday) about how to control it. But the way we played it was outstanding and the atmosphere was exhilarating,” he remarked.
Also, Pakistan Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi said his nation has given a positive message to the world. “With this match we have given a loud and clear and a positive message to the world that we love cricket and want to hold international matches regularly,” he said. “Our stadiums will no more serve as marriage gardens but they will hold international cricket matches,” said Afridi, who retired from one-day cricket after the 2015 World Cup.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Sarfraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper, vice-captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Mukhtar Ahmed, Nauman Anwar, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan, Anwar Ali, Hammad Azam, Imad Wasim, Bilawal Bhatti, Mohammad Sami, Wahab Riaz.
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (Captain), Sikandar Raza Butt, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Roy Kaia, Hamilton Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa11,Richmond Mutumbami, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Sean Williams.
Field umpires: Ahsan Raza, Ahmad Shahab.
TV Umpire: Shozab Raza.
Match-Referee: Azhar Khan.
Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2015