Zimbabwe fluff chance to beat Pakistan in first T20I

Pakistan – 149-7 in 20 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 82*, Danish Aziz 15, Fakhar Zaman 13; Wessly Madhevere 2/11, Luke Jongwe 2/24, Blessing Muzarabani 1/22). Zimbabwe – 138-7 in 20 overs (Craig Ervine 34, Luke Jongwe 30*, Wessly Madhevere 14; Usman Qadir 3/29, Mohammad Hasnain 2/27, Mohammad Hafeez 1/21). Pakistan won by 11 runs

Pakistan wicket-keeper and opening batsman Mohammad Rizwan played a magnificent innings of 82 not out that effectively won the first T20 international for his team against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club today.

A brilliant bowling effort by Zimbabwe gave them a chance of what would have been their first victory over Pakistan in this format of the game, but unfortunately the home side let their chances slip and went down to a close but disappointing 11-run defeat.

Zimbabwe won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat on a sunny morning, with the pitch looking in good condition. The hosts opened their bowling with Wellington Masakadza and Blessing Muzarabani against the opening batsmen Rizwan and the captain Babar Azam.

Muzarabani struck in his first over, as Azam (2) slashed a ball low to backward point where Ryan Burl picked up a sharp low catch, and the first wicket was down for eight.

Rizwan looked in good form from the start, but when he had scored 13 he tried to pull a short ball from Richard Ngarava – the ball lobbed towards mid-on, and Tinashe Kamunhukamwe ran forward and dived for the catch, but failed to hold it.

It was not an easy chance, but the miss had serious repercussions for Zimbabwe. Rizwan’s partner Fakhar Zaman also enjoyed a life in the next over, from Luke Jongwe, as he skyed a drive over mid-on – Sean Williams ran backwards but failed to hold the chance.

Fortunately for Zimbabwe, Zaman fell for 13 in the next over, trying to cut a ball from Wessly Madhevere that came through faster than he expected and he played it on to his stumps; 42 for two. The next batsman, Mohammad Hafeez, was also dropped when he had scored two, as he slammed a difficult chance straight back to Masakadza, who did not pick up the flight of the ball in time.

Madhevere did take the wicket of Hafeez (5) in his next over, thanks to a brilliant leaping catch at backward point by Ngarava; 55 for three.

There was a comparatively quiet period now until the new man, Danish Aziz, hit Burl for a straight six, but was then missed off another chance, Regis Chakabva putting down what had appeared to be a fairly straightforward catch.

Later in the over from Jongwe, however, Aziz (15) misjudged a quicker ball and lobbed a simple catch to Ngarava at fine leg; 89 for four. As Haider Ali came in, the spin of Burl and Masakadza kept the scoring quiet, but Rizwan, still there and batting well, reached his fifty off 47 balls.

Ali, with five off nine balls in the later part of the innings, became desperate to score – he had a slog at a yorker from Jongwe and was clean-bowled at 98 for five in the 16th over.

Faheem Ashraf had the unusual experience of being out first ball for one – he risked a second run for a drive to Tadiwanashe Marumani in the deep and was narrowly run out.

Ngarava bowled a loose over that cost 13 runs, with three separate wides that cost seven runs altogether, but with his last ball he had Mohammad Nawaz caught off a skyer to Chakabva for nine; 124 for seven after 18 overs.

With 19 overs bowled Zimbabwe had restricted Pakistan to 129 runs, but their last over was a disaster. Ngarava was given the ball again, but this over cost 20 runs, all to Rizwan and including three fours and a six – this was to prove crucial.

So Pakistan finished with a better score than expected at 149 for seven, and they owed it all to Rizwan, who finished with 82 not out off 61 balls, including 10 fours and a six. The second-highest score was only 15, and only three men reached double figures.

Jongwe and Madhevere both took two wickets and no bowler went for more than seven runs an over, except for Ngarava, whose four overs cost 48 runs.

Zimbabwe had to rue their dropped catches, though, especially the difficult chance that reprieved Rizwan on 13.

Zimbabwe began their chase with Kamunhukamwe and Madhevere, and after two overs, bowled by Mohammad Hasnain and Faheem Ashraf, had put up a very promising 18 runs on the board, with four fours scored, three of them to Madhevere.

In the third over it was Pakistan’s turn to miss a chance, as Madhevere survived an uppish stroke to midwicket — only to be out next ball, miscuing a hit to mid-off.

Madhevere made a good-looking 14 off nine balls, but Marumani, coming in and facing his first ball, attempted a stroke and was caught at mid-on, with Azam taking two catches off successive balls.

Craig Ervine now came in to join Kamunhukamwe, and he soon showed the same fine form he had shown in the Domestic T20 Competition, hitting the leg-spinner Usman Qadir for a six and a four in his first over and racing to 21 off his first 12 balls.

This partnership was better than any produced by Pakistan, with the batsmen running well together and hitting the loose deliveries securely for four.

After 10 overs Zimbabwe were well-placed at 73 for two, and the partnership was now worth 52. Unfortunately, after the partnership had added 56 together in such fine style, Kamunhukamwe leapt down the pitch to Hafeez and swung at the ball without reaching it, to be easily stumped by Rizwan for 29 off 35 balls; 77 for three.

Then Ervine followed suit, aiming a reverse sweep at Qadir and being brilliantly caught one-handed for 34 off 23 balls; 79 for four and Zimbabwe had lost their advantage.

The unnecessary dismissals of these two batsmen when they were so well set was to prove fatal to Zimbabwe. Williams and Burl had to try to repair the damage, but Williams only made nine before he played two poorly executed sweep shots and was caught off a top edge from the second; 91 for five in the 14th over.

Chakabva scored only three before he was trapped lbw slogging at a googly from Qadir; 95 for six, and Zimbabwe appeared to be sinking fast now.

They needed 52 runs to win in the last five overs with only four wickets left. The 100 came up in the 16th over, but the Pakistani bowling was good and there were few easy runs to be had by Burl and Jongwe.

Burl finally picked up a leg-side ball from Hasnain to hit it for a big six over the leg boundary, which left Zimbabwe to score 37 to win off the last three overs.

Jongwe played two fine strokes for successive fours off Haris Rauf to keep hopes alive, but the bowler fought back with a superb yorker to bowl Burl for 14; 122 for seven in 18 overs.

Jongwe did his best, and hit a six off Hasnain over long-off, but 20 were needed from the final over and the bowling was just too good. Jongwe, who was dropped at third man, finished with 30 off 23 balls, and Zimbabwe’s total of 138 for seven wickets gave Pakistan victory by 11 runs.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s veteran batsman Brendan Taylor was ruled out of this match as he is recovering from gastrointestinal infection.