Pakistan and Zimbabwe played their first series of ICC World Cup Super League, a new pathway for the qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. Both teams were playing an ODI match after more than six months. Pakistan were playing their first ODI series after more than a year.
Many assumed the series would go in Pakistan’s favor with high expectations of one-sided and whitewash by Pakistan, just like the 2018 series. Pakistan, of course, we’re playing with a slightly weaker side that included youngsters. For Zimbabwe, some believed that their experience players’ arrival would not give an easy time to Pakistan. Such as the likes of Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, and Sikandar Raza.
Those “some people” were right. The arrivals of experienced Zimbabwe players gave Pakistan a little tough time on the field. Apart from the second ODI match, Zimbabwe did well in the series opener and closer. It did turn out to be an excellent and close series in the end.
Pakistan last played an ODI series in September-October 2019. They had won six straight matches, stretching from the 2019 World Cup match. They announced a slightly weaker squad, leaving Mohammad Amir, Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Hafeez, and Shadab Khan. In this ODI series, they included seven uncapped players, out of which four were given ODI caps. Haris Rauf (1st ODI), Mohammad Musa, Haider Ali (Both 2nd ODI), and Khushdil Shah (3rd ODI) made their debuts.
Pakistan started the series with a bit of a hiccup. They were over-cautious in batting in the first ODI. They hardly reached 200 in the 40th over before late hitting powered to competitive 281. Even at the bowling, Shaheen and Wahab’s experience duo bowled out Zimbabwe to win the match by 26 runs.
The second match was more of a gift to Pakistan. Zimbabwe batsmen were going well in the middle. But when Iftikhar was introduced, they played rash shots against him, which resulted in their wickets being fallen. A captain’s knock from Babar powered Pakistan to six wickets win and sealed the series 2-0. Haider Ali made his debut and played some lovely strokes before he was dismissed for 29.
The third ODI was something Pakistan cannot forget. The game came down to the Super Over. In the innings, young bowlers could not get Zimbabwe’s major wickets, apart from Mohammad Hasnain, who took his maiden five-wicket haul. Then in batting, Zimbabwe bowlers had Pakistan all roundup. Before another stellar Babar show, Pakistan struggled at 88-5, along with Wahab’s fighting fifty brought the game close. Eventually, the match was tied.
There was a bizarre decision to send Iftikhar Ahmed and Fakhar Zaman with Khushdil Shah in the Super Over. The fans questioned the management for not sending Haider Ali nor Wahab Riaz or even Babar Azam. Pakistan managed 2 runs and ended up losing the match.
The star-performer was Babar Azam, scoring 221 runs at an average of 110.5 with a hundred and a fifty. He was awarded the player of the series. In fact, it was his second consecutive Player of the Series award.
In bowling, four bowlers were tied with 5 wickets; Mohammad Hasnain, Iftikhar Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, and Shaheen Afridi. Hasnain and Iftikhar picked their maiden five-wicket hauls in the series. Amazingly, three different fifers were picked in three different ODI matches. It was probably the first time that must have happened in Pakistan cricket. You can read it here:
Zimbabwe needed a win. They lost their last eight ODI matches. Two to the Netherlands, and three each to Ireland and Bangladesh. Their last series was against Bangladesh in March 2020. Their experienced players returned to this series. This was their first ODI Super League series, and they wanted to mark their win in this series.
It wasn’t the last time where Pakistan horribly whitewashed them. Though, of course, they were without their main players. They played well in this series. Starting from the first ODI, they had Pakistan struggling in batting. They restricted Pakistan to 205 in the 40th over. It was until Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf’s late hitting put on a challenging total. Zimbabwe batted well, especially in the middle. They were 234-4, but the dismissal of Wesley Madhevere saw Zimbabwe collapse to 6-21, eventually losing the game by 26 runs.
The second ODI was more of a gift to Pakistan. Again, they were settled in the middle order. But they trapped themselves in Iftikhar Ahmed’s part-time spin. It was more of throwing their wickets away. They were bundled out for 206 and lost the game by 6 wickets, giving Pakistan a series win.
From these two losses, they lost ten straight ODI matches. They did not need to win a match, but they needed to open their ODI Super League campaign. Something sparks them in the final ODI. They batted well and put on 278 on the back of Sean William’s unbeaten 118. It was his first century against Pakistan and first since April 2019. And too much of their joy, they had Pakistan limping at 88-5. Babar Azam, Khushdil Shah, and Wahab Riaz brought the game close. Musa Khan hit the boundary to tied the match.
The Super Over was a surprise. They chased down Pakistan’s 2 and won their first match in about six months. Their smiles and reaction showed how much it meant to them. They also gained their first ODI Super League points. Zimbabwe, who was the host of 2019 World Cup Qualifiers, failed to reach the final 10. They had rough times in the aftermath of the qualifiers.
The star performers were Sean Williams and Brendan Taylor. Taylor was Zimbabwe’s leading run-scorer with 204 runs at an average of 68 with one century and fifty. Williams was the second-best, with 197 runs at 98.5, with a hundred and fifty.
1st ODI: Pakistan (281-8) beat Zimbabwe (255 all-out) by 26 runs
2nd ODI: Pakistan (208-4) beat Zimbabwe (206 all-out) by 6 wickets
3rd ODI: Match tied, Zimbabwe won the Super Over
Pakistan (2-1) beat Zimbabwe in the three-match ODI series
Player of the series: Babar Azam (Pakistan)
ODI Super League points
Series points = 30 points
Pakistan = 20 Points
Zimbabwe = 10 points