VISITING Pakistan needed to save both face and the series when they clashed with Zimbabwe in the second of three One-Day International (ODI) series at Harare Sports Club yesterday and managed to do just that with a 90-run win.
Zimbabwe won the first ODI on Tuesday before Pakistan’s leveler yesterday setting up a tantalising weekend decider.
Yesterday’s result reflects a massive gulf between local players and their sub-continent counterparts, even though for long periods the hosts stayed within touching distance of the required rate until they lost the last six wickets for a mere nine runs to end on 209 all-out chasing a mammoth target of 299 set by Pakistan after being sent in to bat by Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor.
Mohammad Hafeez was the bedrock of the Pakistan innings smashing an unbeaten 132 which featured nine fours and five sixes, while Umar Amin weighed in with a half century.
Shahid Afridi also played a crucial role with a mini cameo of 39 off 23 balls. Brian Vitori took two wickets for the hosts but the rest of the bowlers toiled.
With a huge target to chase, Zimbabwe needed a frenetic start and there was pressure on the opening pair to provide a good stand.
Vusi Sibanda (2) fell victim to Mohammad Irfan’s early storm when he miscued a skier to present keeper Sarfraz Ahmed with an easy catch.
After that it was important for the Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor partnership to last long and when they started to look comfortable chipping away at the imposing total, Junaid Khan, who took four wickets, intervened by removing the former and reducing Zimbabwe to 42-2.
Taylor combined with Tymcen Maruma to add 23 more runs before the latter was run-out.
Then came the 100-run Taylor and Sean Williams partnership which gave Zimbabwe all the reason to be hopeful.
Williams gave a batting-made-easy lesson reverse sweeping, sweeping and cutting with such sumptuous simplicity as he illuminated the ground with every shot.
Taylor reached his half ton from the rate of almost a-run-a-ball hitting 51 from 50 balls as Zimbabwe’s innings recovered.
Williams had already raced to 25 from 26 balls. With everything sailing so smoothly, there was a scare when Taylor skied an Afridi delivery only for Saeed Ajmal to fumble the catch to give the Zimbabwe skipper another life.
Zimbabwe were on 121-3 from 25,1 overs at that stage and Taylor further calmed nerves with a sweetly struck boundary soon after. But Saeed soon made up for that when he deceived Williams to present keeper Sarfaz with an easy stumping opportunity and suddenly Zimbabwe’s victory chances started diminishing.
After 35 overs, Zimbabwe was on 182-4 compared to 150-3 for Pakistan at the same stage.
With Zimbabwe requiring a further 100 runs from 11 overs, spin wizard Saeed removed the Taylor threat and with him gone, the spectacular collapse followed as the match was over in the next 3,4 overs.
Taylor made 79 off 90 balls, hitting six fours and one six in the process.
Malcolm Waller followed him to the pavilion when he chopped a Khan delivery onto his stumps before the only other hopeful Elton Chigumbura was trapped by Khan.
Earlier the tourists had encountered little trouble in putting on a formidable score despite suffering an early setback when Ahmed Shehzad spooned Vitori to present Sibanda with an easy catch.
Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez added 50 before the former perished at 32, trapped leg before by Prosper Utseya.
But Hafeez continued to score at a good rate even after the tourists had lost skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq for just three runs.