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Pakistan win nail bitter to claim T20I series

LAHORE - May 25, 2015: Pakistan pulled off a nail-biting two wickets win to sweep the two-match T20I series against spirited Zimbabwe here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday night.

With thanks to Bilawal Bhatti’s five-ball 13, Pakistan carved 176 runs for eight with two balls to spare. Chasing 175 for three scored by Zimbabwe, Pakistan achieved the win but not before some hiccups. They were 161 for 8 in 18.2 overs when Bilawal hit a six and a winning four to earn win for Pakistan.

Pakistan batsmen, in reply, made their objective clear by opting for an average of 10 right from the start but they afterwards slipped gradually towards oblivion. Though it did not get the same opening stand that Ahmed Shahzad and Mukhtar Ahmed produced in the previous match, but the latter and Nauman entertained the crowd with big hits. Ahmed when at 18 and team’s 44 picked Vitori’s ball pulled to mid-off where Sibanda did the rest.

Mukhtar and Nauman with their joint effort launched the charge getting the score to 81. But Nauman became the victim of Utseya and then again Sibanda was there at long-on to end the crowd’s joy. He splashed two fours and a six, in 10 balls. Hopes rested with Mukhtar (then at 46), who was joined by Shoaib Malik, but the former captain was run out at 7. Pakistan 95/3 in 10.4 overs, got its 100 in 11.3 overs.

As eyes rested on Mukhtar, who splashed a four to get his second straight fifty, when reached 62, Pakistan lost its fourth wickets at 117. Here too Sibanda was the catcher off Sikandar Raza. Umer Akmal, who was dropped at one, was joined by Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi. Instead of playing a lead role Afridi in his usual self gifted his prized wicket to Williams after hitting a six. Akmal went on to score 30 before being trapped LBW by Christopher Mpofu. At 23 required of 18 balls, the ask was still not big enough to achieve but Pakistan batsmen played harrakiri and lost three quick wickets. Mpofu and Williams took two wickets each while Vitori, Utseya and Raza chipped in with one wicket each.

Zimbabwe launched their charge from the word go getting runs at an average of seven-plus runs an over and raced to their 50 runs in the sixth over. Hamilton Masakadza took all the Pakistan bowlers with his heavy blade. He welcomed Bilawal Bhatti with three back to back fours to show his intent that they mean business. As Afridi and Shoaib Malik came in to start the spin, current of runs took a dip a bit and that change paved the way for the wicket of Masakada.

The Zimbabwean opener continuing the same aggressive style went for a lofted shot off Malik but a miss-hit to Anwar Ali at long on pushed him (Masakada) back to the dressing room at 39 off 32 balls.

Opener Vusi Sibanda and Sean Williams maintained the average, getting Zimbabwe’s 100 in 12 overs. The two then accelerated the score developing 25 runs in three overs to have 125/1 in 15 overs. When Zimbabwe reached 136 runs, Sibanda pulled Afridi to mid-wicket and the rising ball juggled into the hands of Anwar. They (Sibanda and Williams) shared 68 runs for the second wicket in 50 balls.

Williams then completed his half century with a six while the next coming batsman, Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura greeted Mohammad Sami with three consecutive sixes, taking the score to 164 in 18 overs. In this bat and ball tussle, Sami won Chigumbura’s wicket that made Ahmed Shehzad run to take the catch at long-off. Chigumbura gathered nine-ball 21. Williams (58 off 32 balls, 4x7, 1x6) and Charles Coventry (2) took their total three runs past their first T20I match’s total of 172 to 175 for three. Malik, Afridi and Sami shared one wicket each.

Zimbabwe again won the toss and elected to bat after having two changes in the team. They brought in Chamunorwa Chibhabha and Prosper Utseya in place of R Mutumbami and T Panyangara while Pakistan gave T20I debut to two players as three changes were made in the team from the first match. Nauman Anwar and Imad Wasim were give T20I caps while M Rizwan was the third change. Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmed and Wahab Riaz were rested.