A heroic century by Brendan Taylor went in vain as Pakistan won the first match of the three-match ODI series at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi against Zimbabwe by 26 runs.
Left-armers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz took nine wickets between them to spearhead Pakistan’s victory.
Brendan Taylor scored the 11th century of his ODI career but failed to get his side over the line in what turned out to be a thrilling first encounter. The 34-year-old right-hander hit 11 fours and three sixes in his sparking 112-run innings off 117 balls. He became in-form fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi’s third victim as Zimbabwe’s 281-run chase fell away with his dismissal.
Shaheen added two more wickets to his tally to end the match with figures of 10-0-49-5, the second five-wicket haul of his 20-match ODI career.
Zimbabwe were rocked back in their 281-run chase with Afridi accounting for the two openers Brian Chari (2) and captain Chamu Chibhabha (13) in a hostile opening five-over spell that earned him two for 21.
The tourists were brought back in the hunt with a 71-run third-wicket stand between Craig Ervine and Taylor. Ervine was dismissed for 41 off 68 balls (six fours) by Imad Wasim with debutant Haris Rauf taking the catch. Sean Williams was dismissed by Wahab Riaz for four which left Zimbabwe 115 for four in 26.4 overs.
Wesley Madhevere joined hands with Taylor to bring the tourists right back in contention with a 119-run fifth-wicket stand in 112 balls. Madhevere scored the second fifty of his career, the right-hander hit seven fours in his 55-run innings that came off 61 balls. He was bowled by Wahab in the 46th over with the score at 234.
Wahab and Shaheen combined to stifle the Zimbabwe batting in the final overs of the match as the visitor’s chase subsided on the fourth ball of the final over with Wahab taking the 10th and final wicket (Blessing Muzarabani) to finish with figures of 9.4-0-41-4
Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat first. Openers Abid Ali and Imam-ul-Haq provided a 47-run first-wicket stand. Abid was dismissed lbw by Carl Mumba for 21 off 30 balls (five fours).
Speedster Blessing Muzarabani got the prized wicket of Pakistan captain Babar Azam who was dismissed for 19 off 18 balls.
Imam was run out after a mix-up with Haris Sohail for 58 off 75 balls, this was the seventh half-century of the left-hander’s career, Imam hit six fours in his innings. After Imam’s departure, Haris held the innings together with some fluent stroke-play.
At the other end Pakistan lost the wickets of wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan (14) and Iftikhar Ahmed (12) in quick succession as the two fell in their attempts of increasing the scoring rate.
Haris fell for 71 off 82 balls (six fours, two sixes) he was caught behind off Sikander Raza. This was the 14th half-century for Haris in 42 ODIs.
Faheem Ashraf (23 off 16 balls) and Imad 34 not out (26 balls, one four, two sixes) provided the much needed impetus to the batting in the death overs to take Pakistan to their formidable 281 for eight total in 50 overs.
Muzarabani and Tendai Chisoro with two wickets each were the two most successful Zimbabwe bowlers.
Pakistan: 281-8, (50 overs) (Haris Sohail 71, Imam-ul-Haq 58, Imad Wasim 34 not out; Tendai Chisoro 2-31, Blessing Muzarabani 2-39)
Zimbabwe: 255-10 (49.4 overs) (Brendan Taylor 112, Wesley Madhevere 55, Craig Ervine 41; Shaheen Shah Afridi 5-49, Wahab Riaz 4-41)
Result: Pakistan won by 26 runs
Man-of-the-match: Brendan Taylor