HARARE: Pakistan knocked Zimbabwe out of the Twenty20 International tri-series at the Harare Sports Club in a closely-fought encounter on Wednesday, beating the hosts by seven wickets with five deliveries to spare.
Opener Fakhar Zaman top-scored for Pakistan with 47 before captain Sarfraz Ahmed overcame a spirited Zimbabwean fightback and saw his side home with an unbeaten 38. Their efforts meant that Zimbabwean all-rounder Solomon Mire’s bellicose earlier innings earlier went in vain.
Mire struck 94, the highest score by a Zimbabwean in Twenty20 Internationals, but Zimbabwe’s 162-4 was not enough to overcome the world’s top-ranked T20 side.
Fakhar said Pakistan was always confident they could pull off a successful chase.
“We have a very deep batting line-up, so we were confident we could chase it,” he said.
Pakistan were given a rapid start by Fakhar and fellow opener Haris Sohail as the pair amassed 56 from the Powerplay overs.
Haris, replacing Mohammad Hafeez in the playing XI, holed out soon afterwards, but Fakhar continued to show the sort of touch that made him vital to Pakistan’s successful Champions Trophy run last year.
Mixing aggression with an ability to manoeuvre the ball around the field, he cracked four fours and a six.
The tactic spoke volumes about his development as a limited overs batsman.
“In the start in T20 I was hitting every ball in my striking zone, but after playing eight to 10 games I sat with some senior players like Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed, and spoke about my game-plans with them,” Fakhar explained. “I realised that I could play proper cricket shots and be successful (in T20), and that’s what I’ve been doing recently.”
Executing his attacking strokes perfectly, Sarfraz found the gaps and the boundaries whenever they were needed.
He displayed a particularly deft touch with his late cut, taking boundaries off left-arm spinners Tendai Chisoro and Wellington Masakadza with the stroke.
With four runs needed from the final over, it was also the shot he used to end the game, gliding seamer Chris Mpofu to the third man boundary.
Where Sarfraz’s innings was one of finesse, Mire’s 63-ball 94 for Zimbabwe showcased big-hitting ability.
Mire, who struck six sixes and as many fours, started slowly, but hit his first six into the stands beyond long leg to move into the 20s and was soon smashing Pakistan’s attack to all corners of the ground.
Mire’s fourth six took him to a 32-ball half century, his first in this format, and he wasn’t done there.
He collected a fifth six with a huge strike down the ground off Mohammad Nawaz’ left-arm spin, and then lifted fast bowler Mohammad Amir for the biggest hit of the day, over the roof of the three storey stand beyond midwicket.
He eventually fell for 94 attempting another big hit, but his 64-run third wicket stand with Tarisai Musakanda boosted Zimbabwe to a respectable total after two poor outings in this tournament.
“We were expecting 130 to 140 on this pitch, but Mire played a very good innings,” said Fakhar.
It was not enough to beat Pakistan, however, who are now assured a place in Sunday’s final against Australia.
Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2018