Zimbabwe stun Pakistan to level T20I series

Zimbabwe – 118-9 in 20 overs (Tinashe Kamunhukamwe 34, Regis Chakabva 18, Wessly Madhevere 16; Mohammad Hasnain 2/19, Danish Aziz 2/29, Haris Rauf 1/10). Pakistan – 99 all out in 19.5 overs (Babar Azam 41, Danish Aziz 22, Mohammad Rizwan 13; Luke Jongwe 4/18, Ryan Burl 2/21, Richard Ngarava 1/10). Zimbabwe won by 19 runs

A terrific bowling performance has powered Zimbabwe to their first ever victory over Pakistan in a Twenty20 international (T20I) match to level the three-match series at Harare Sports Club today.

Luke Jongwe – making his comeback in national colours after a five-year absence – took three wickets in the final over of the match and Zimbabwe celebrated one of their finest hours in snatching a sensational victory over Pakistan by 19 runs.

In fact, Pakistan’s last five wickets fell in 11 balls for just 11 runs as they were bowled out for 99. Ryan Burl took two wickets and two catches, while Tarisai Musakanda took two catches and a run-out, but overall it was an entire team effort.

Zimbabwe were criticised for poor fielding in the first match two days ago, and they responded today with a virtually perfect display in the field, missing nothing and backing up accurate and intelligent bowling to the hilt.

There were two changes in the Zimbabwe team for this match, as they lost two major players but gained a third. Craig Ervine injured a calf muscle while fielding in the first match and will be out for the series, while the captain Sean Williams was resting an injured hand.

The loss of these two star middle-order left-handers proved a serious handicap for Zimbabwe’s batting. However, Brendan Taylor returned to the side after illness and stood in as captain.

Pakistan won the toss and put Zimbabwe in to bat. Taylor opened the innings with Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, who almost ran himself out in the first over after driving a four through the covers – the fielder made a brilliant stop which left Kamunhukamwe stranded down the pitch, but the throw was poor.

Taylor scored only five when, with the score only 19 in the fifth over, he miscued an attempted pull and skyed a simple catch into the covers.

Tadiwanashe Marumani came in next. The debutant pace bowler Arshad Iqbal hit Kamunhukamwe on the helmet with a bouncer, but he was fit to continue his innings. Kamunhukamwe struggled to keep the score moving, and on 20 he was dropped off a chance from a reverse sweep.

Marumani on 11 was fortunate to avoid being stumped as he swung wildly at a googly from Usman Qadir and just got his bat down in time, but in the next over he was out for 13, well caught by the wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan down the leg side from Iqbal.

Zimbabwe were in some trouble with only 47 runs on the board for two wickets in the 10th over. Wessly Madhevere quickly hit a fine four past cover, but Kamunhukamwe drove a catch into the covers to be out for 34 off 40 balls; 68 for three in the 13th over.

Burl was soon caught at the wicket for three attempting a reverse sweep to Qadir, and then Madhevere was also out to a similar stroke, only he was bowled instead by Danish Aziz for 16.

This was the 15th over and Zimbabwe were 83 for five, still looking for a batsman to play a dominant innings. Regis Chakabva hit the first six of the innings, with a big shot over midwicket off Aziz, and with a four from Tarisai Musakanda the team hundred came up in the 17th over.

Musakanda made 13 before he was bowled by a fast yorker from Mohammad Hasnain at 108 for six in the 18th over. Jongwe got under his second ball and scooped it over the fine-leg boundary for six.

In the 19th over a faster delivery from Haris Rauf trapped Chakabva lbw for 18, at 116 for seven. Sheer bad luck then took a hand, as Wellington Masakadza, backing up quite correctly at the bowler’s end, was run out when a drive from Jongwe rebounded off the bowler’s hand on to the stumps.

Two balls later Jongwe was out for seven, scooping a ball from Hasnain to be caught at deep point. The last two men scored a single each so that Zimbabwe finished with 118 for nine.

Pakistan had bowled very accurately and well, and the Zimbabwe batsmen, most of them inexperienced, were unable to master them. Hasnain took two wickets for 19, and Aziz, although he was the only bowler to prove expensive, also took two wickets for 29 in three overs.

Blessing Muzarabani began the bowling to Rizwan and the captain, Babar Azam, and bowled a fine opening over that tested the batsmen and gave only three runs. Rizwan cut Richard Ngarava’s first ball for four, but on the whole the batsmen decided to play a steady game.

This worked well enough for a while, but when Jongwe came on to bowl the fifth over, Rizwan (13) misjudged the pace and drove a soft catch on the off side; 21 for one.

Some fine fielding by Madhevere almost ran out Azam later in the over. Azam took a while to get used to a pitch slower than he has played on recently in South Africa, but started gathering runs in good style once he had played himself in.

He lost Fakhar Zaman for two, driving a ball from Burl to be caught at long-on by Musakanda; 37 for two in the eighth over.

Burl picked up another wicket when the new man, Mohammad Hafeez (5), also drove a catch to long-on, where he was caught by Masakadza; 56 for three in the 12th over.

The Zimbabwe bowlers did a fine job and the batsmen, confident of an easy victory, seemed to be unaware that the required run rate was slowly rising.

Jongwe returned and struck with the big wicket, as Azam, on 41 and anxious rather too late to increase the scoring rate, drove a slower ball to deep cover and the score was 78 for four in the 16th over.

This was the turning point of the match. Remarkably, Pakistan now found themselves needing 40 to win off the final four overs, and Zimbabwe had given themselves a chance of victory after all.

Asif Ali (1) went in the next over, badly mistiming a ball from Ngarava and lobbing a catch to mid-off; 79 for five.

Only two runs came from that over, and now 38 were needed in three overs. Jongwe bowled another fine over, which yielded only six runs; 32 needed in the last two overs.

Muzarabani came back, Faheem Ashraf (2) drove but lofted it straight to Burl for another catch; 87 for six. Muzarabani then bowled a full toss that Aziz hit for four, and then tried to run two, but a fine return from Musakanda ran him out for 22.

At 92 for seven wickets, with 27 runs needed off eight balls, the Pakistani Titanic had holed badly and was beginning to sink. Rauf opened his shoulders and hit Muzarabani for a big six over long-on, and this left 20 runs needed off the final over, to be bowled by Jongwe.

Qadir swung and missed at the first ball; Rauf wanted the strike and called for a bye, taking Qadir by surprise, and he was run out at the bowler’s end. Rauf swung and missed at the next two balls, and then miscued the fourth delivery to be caught in the covers by Taylor.

Iqbal swung at the fifth, Burl picked up another catch in the deep and the game was over with Pakistan bowled out for 99. Jongwe finished with four wickets for 18 runs, with three of them without a run conceded in his vital final over.

Burl had two for 21, the vital wickets of the top-order batsmen Zaman and Hafeez, and then took two catches in the deep in Pakistan’s final suicidal attempts to score.

But the whole team contributed with brilliant fielding throughout, and all the bowlers did a fine job. It was particularly noticeable how many wickets fell to cleverly disguised slower balls that the batsmen failed to spot until it was too late.

This was the first time Zimbabwe have ever won a T20I match against Pakistan, after suffering 15 defeats. The final T20I on Sunday should be a tremendous game, with Zimbabwe having gained new confidence from this victory and Pakistan, stung badly, determined not to let it happen again.