LAHORE May 27, 2015: Shoaib Malik hit a brilliant century in Pakistan’s 41 runs win in the opening match of the three-match ODI rubber against forceful Zimbabwe here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.
In this affair of attrition, Pakistan limited Zimbabwe to 334 for five that failed to overshadow gutsy Elton Chigumbura’s century after the home side posted record 375 runs for three wickets. Riding on a century from comeback all-rounder Shoaib Malik and two gigantic opening and the third wicket partnerships, Pakistan punished the harmless visiting team attack to the highest total in Pakistan. Malik and Haris Sohail built on the score from 170 runs opening partnership reached by Captain Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez. After the openers, Malik and Haris minced all visiting team bowlers under their heavy hitting.
Zimbabwe, starting off with an average of five runs an over, propelled to their fifty in nine overs and later got spark from Chigumbura’s century to also have the visitors’ highest total in Pakistan.
Pakistan, however, got their first wicket at Zimbabwean’s 56 runs when Anwar Ali got Sikandar Raza hit at mid-wicket to Mohammad Hafeez for 36. After an addition of just nine runs, Wahab Riaz caught and bowled, Vusimuzi Sibanda (23).
Hamilton Masakazada and the visiting team captain Chigumbura took the total past 150 and also hit a 124-run partnership for the third wicket in 19.5 overs. Their partnership and the aggressive approach of Chigumbura were the main hitch in between Pakistan’s win in an otherwise calculated batting from Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean captain cracked 117 which was a script of four mighty sixes and 10 fours including three sixes and a four in Mohammad Sami’s opening over of the second spell.
Masakada and Chigumbura showed resolve while facing Pakistan bowlers which lacked aggression. As Masakazada raced to his fifty in 52 balls, his innings came to a close at 73 runs while Chigumbura developed his half century in the same number of deliveries. A ball after reaching his half century, Chigumbura was provided a lifeline by substitute Asad Shafiq at mid-wicket off M Hafeez. But in the very next over, Malik trapped Masakada as they decided to switch gear. Having a six already in the over, Masakada pulled Malik again but this time Hammad Azam came in the way at deep midwicket to take the third visiting team wicket at 189 in 32.5 overs.
Chigumbura when at 64 was once again dropped, this time by Hammad at deep square leg in the 37th over. Chigumbura and Seam Williams provided 74 runs stand in their total for the 4th wicket but the latter was shown the doors by Wahab with a successful catch by Sarfraz Ahmed. Williams took 28 balls to score 36 runs. Chigumbura kept on his resistance act and took the score to 293 before being bowled by Wahab in the 45 th over. Prosper Utseya (21) and Richmond Mutumbami (21) then batted on till Zimbabwe reached close of their innings. Wahab was the main striker with three wickets while Anwar and Malik shared one wicket each.
Earlier, amidst sloppy Zimbabwe fielding, Pakistan’s total went into the record books as the highest by any team here. Before that Sri Lanka made 357 for nine against Bangladesh in 2008. Pakistan’s previous highest at the venue was 322 also against Bangladesh. Malik and Haris Sohail also smashed their career-best scores at the venue. Malik got to his eighth century in 70 balls while Haris remained unbeaten at 89. Malik also took six years to get his first century and also the first at Gaddafi.
Left stranded at the crease by Hafeez, Malik looked towards Haris Sohail to build on the score from 174 for two onwards. They developed 201 runs for the third wicket to exacerbate the misery of Zimbabwean attack. Malik who raced to his fifty in 43 balls lost his wicket at 76-ball 112 runs on the last ball of Pakistan’s innings while his partner Haris hammered his 6th half century.
Pakistan openers, Captain Azhar Ali and Hafeez consolidated the base of runs for the team with 170 runs stand. Though the two batsmen started off playing slowly and cautiously, but increase the pace of runs later after having scored their half centuries. They stood 117 minutes together in which Azhar was the first to reach his fifty, sixth of career and fourth consecutive after registering three fifties during Bangladesh series. Hafeez then at 85, on his part smashed his 24 half century of career. Pakistan got its 50 in 10 overs, 100 in 18.1 and 150 in 24.2 overs and at that point in time both Azhar and Hafeez were playing at 74 runs each.
Dropped at 57 by Mpofu at long-off off Utseya, Azhar reached his 50 runs in 55 balls and went on to score 79 runs in 76 balls, with the help of nine fours and two sixes. Hafeez on the other end got his fifty in 59 balls.
Hafeez, having new partner in Shoaib Malik, was also made to walk off the field by Utseya at 86 (8x4, 4x6).
Pakistan chose to bat first in the first ODI of the three-match series, first on home soil in six years. As captain and having played international cricket for five years, it was Azhar Ali’s debut on a home ground.
Pakistan entered into the ODI mode, having won the T20I series 2-0 Sunday in front of a packed audience of 22,000 at Gaddafi stadium, but will be far from happy over the manner of both wins which saw them nearly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Earlier, Pakistan brought in Hammad, Sami and Malik and rested Ahmed Shehzad, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan for the opening match. As for Zimbabwe, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Roy Kaia and Tawanda Mupariwa were given the benches.
The hosts need nothing less than a 3-0 series win to keep alive their chances of qualifying for the 2017 Champions Trophy in England. In this ninth-ranked and eleventh ranked teams, Zimbabwe stakes qualification for 2019 World Cup. Rise in rankings will take top priority for these languishing teams.