Pakistan wrapped up the T20I series at the earliest opportunity, thrashing Zimbabwe by eight wickets in the second of three games. It was the bowlers who set it up, with legspinner Usman Qadir’s sensational spell the most exciting aspect for Pakistan. His three wickets, combined with just as many by Haris Rauf, dented Zimbabwe early, never allowing partnerships and restricting them to 134.
That chase was a cakewalk for the hosts. Haider Ali and Babar Azam made short work of it, Haider bringing up his second T20I half-century as Babar cantered to his second in as many games. The chase was done with five overs to spare, with disappointingly little fight put up by Chamu Chibhabha’s side.
For the first time on this tour a team won the toss and put the opposition in, Pakistan perhaps wishing to repeat the performance they put in yesterday. What transpired, instead, was an even more crushing performance with the ball. Zimbabwe got off to a bit of a flyer, racking up 36 in four overs, but lost Brendan Taylor and the hopelessly out of form Chibhabha early, and that set the tone for the kind of innings it would be. All but two of their batsmen got into double figures, but only one managed to cross 30, with the starts they got quickly snuffed out by a ruthless bowling performance.
Qadir’s sensational spell began inauspiciously with a half-tracker that the precocious Wesley Madhevere pulled away for six, but that was the only mistake he made all day. Varying his length, pace, flight and googly effectively kept the batsmen guessing, and he never once failed to execute whatever appeared to be on his mind.
Both the legspinner and the wrong ‘un got prodigious turn, discomfiting the batsmen’s footwork and forcing them to try and see out his overs, which built even more pressure and resulted in wickets, either for him or from the other end. When, in his final over, it looked like Elton Chigumbura had the measure of him, smacking him down the ground for six and then sweeping him for four, Qadir struck back with his final ball, beating the batsman in the flight, drawing him out of his crease, giving Rizwan an easy stumping. He finished with 3 for 23; if anything, those figures didn’t flatter him enough.
Not that the other bowlers weren’t on their game. Rauf was at his quickest, which brought him the wickets of the openers. He defeated Taylor with a hint of seam movement and returned to rush Chibhabha’s pull shot and put Zimbabwe under immediate pressure, while a tight Powerplay over from Fahim Ashraf brought the wicket of the in-form Sean Williams.
Zimbabwe had moments of promise, with Ryan Burl’s intelligent knock at the death – 32 off 22 – taking them to 134 and at least keeping the target respectable, but in the absence of one big score or even one big partnership, there was little hope the bowlers could dig them out of that hole.
Pakistan’s only worry would be the continued struggle of Fakhar Zaman at this level. Blessing Muzarabani, who alongside Madhevere has been the brightest spark of the tour for Zimbabwe, snared him in his second over when Zaman went for a low percentage drive down the ground that went straight to mid-on. But it only gave Haider Ali another shot at putting his dazzling talent on display, and he was keen to show it off.
He got things off and running with an exquisite square cut of Richard Ngarava, and never looked back. The lofted back-foot drive down the ground – with the pose maintained for good measure – is the closest thing he has to a trademark shot, and he unfurled that shot time and again. Donald Tiripano got that treatment, and he was unafraid to use his feet to Sean Williams to deposit him at cow corner. Within no time, it seemed, he was bringing up his half-century.
Babar continues to make runs almost without drawing attention to himself. The boundaries come as if on autopilot, and the ball goes where he needs it to, without anyone noticing anymore how consistently clinical he is. While everyone’s eyes were on Haider Ali, Babar scored the quickest T20I half-century of his career, bringing it up off 27 balls – once again, the only minor irritation being he failed to stick around to hit the winning runs. Muzarabani struck once more, rushing Babar on to a hook shot as Chigumbura completed a fine diving catch at deep-fine leg. On the day, it was a rare bit of good cricket from Zimbabwe.—Agencies