T20 is such an unpredictable format that any team can defeat any side on a given day. Zimbabwe knew when the T20 series kicked off against Pakistan at Harare on Friday that they could compete against their much-stronger rival in the shortest version of the sport. They did the same in the opening T20 when the claimed the first three Pakistan wickets while bowling first rather cheaply and then while batting they were pretty in contention for half the duration of the chase. Pakistan however managed to exhibit their superiority in the second half of both the innings, and got home rather comfortably in the end.
One of the key phases were Zimbabwe fell on the back foot in the game was when they conceded 75 runs in a six-over period. At the end of the 11th over, Pakistan were disappointingly placed at 57 for 3, but Ahmed Shehzad and debutant Sohaib Maqsood featured in a heartening half-century stand that revived Pakistan’s innings. Elton Chigumbura’s over, the 12th of the innings, in which he conceded 17 runs, swung the moments in the visitors’ favour, and Pakistan never looked back from that point.
Shehzad’s innings of 70 was vital in setting up a competitive total for Pakistan. But, he had to be careful since the team had lost Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez and a little later Umar Amin cheaply. However, once he found a stable partner in Maqsood he began opening up. Pakistan needed one of their batsmen to anchor the innings, and Shehzad took up the role perfectly. His 50-ball 70 was highly impressive knock in the context of the innings. Even after Maqsood was dismissed for a quick cameo, Shahid Afridi came up with another important breezy knock. His unbeaten 23 off 16 balls gave Pakistan the much-needed lift in the final overs.
Zimbabwe’s bowling was a mixed bag. At the top they were highly impressive. Prosper Utseya’s figures of 1 for 15 from his four overs were a clear indication of how miserly he was on the day. Tendai Chatara was also in his elements picking up the big scalps of Jamshed and Hafeez, and while Brian Vitori did not pick up any wickets, he was economical, and kept up the pressure. The rest however were taken to the cleaners –Shingi Masakadza, Chigumbura and Sean Williams went for plenty of runs to upset Zimbabwe’s chances.
The hosts fought back well with the bat, Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda laid a good platform for them adding 50 inside eight overs. They looked in little trouble against Mohammad Irfan and Sohail Tanvir. Their bigger test though was going to be against the Pakistan spinners, and this is where they lost the game. Masakadza disappointed falling for 18 after getting a start. Sibanda and skipper Brendan Taylor then took the score to 80 in the 13th over when Afridi struck to swing the momentum of the match. Following Sibanda’s dismissal, Zimbabwe lost the plot, with Afridi claiming a couple of more wickets. Taylor held one end up, but the lack of support for him meant Zimbabwe fell way behind in the end.
--By A Cricket Analyst