Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan all-rounder Bilal Asif claimed his maiden five-wicket haul and scored 38 runs to not only lead his side to a seven-wicket win over Zimbabwe in the third ODI in Harare, but also a 2-1 series win.
However, Zimbabwe opener Richmond Mutumbami deserves a lot of credit as he made a valiant 67.
Pakistan stand-in captain Sarfraz Ahmed would have been questioning his decision to bowl first initially as Mutumbami and Chamu Chibhabha amassed an 89-run partnership before Chibhabha was caught and bowled by Asif for 48.
Soon after Chibhabha’s dismissal, Zimbabwe’s collapse began as they started to lose wickets at regular intervals. Mumtumbami seemed to be Zimbabwe’s only hope as he was taking the attack to the Pakistan bowlers despite losing partner after partner.
However, once Mutumbami was dismissed for 67 off 85 balls, which included five boundaries and two sixes, Zimbabwe’s offense fizzled out and they were eventually dismissed for 161.
Asif was easily the pick of the bowlers with five wickets, while Imad Wasim snapped up three and Mohammad Irfan and Shoaib Malik chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Chasing 162 to win, Pakistan got off to a great start as Asif and Ahmed Shehzad put together a 58-run stand before Asif was caught by Tinotenda Mutombodzi at long-on off the bowling of John Nyumbu for 38.
Despite losing Mohammad Hafeez and Shehzad soon after, Pakistan cruised to victory with 96 balls to spare thanks to Asad Shafiq and Malik’s unbeaten 58-run partnership.
Shafiq finished on 38 off 60 balls, which included two boundaries, while Malik remained undefeated on 34 off 28 deliveries, which included five boundaries and a six.
Nyumbu, Tinashe Panyangara and Sean Williams claimed one wicket each.
Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura was disappointed with his side’s performance, and said: “Obviously, the two games we didn’t have enough with the bat, we lost. Pakistan deserved to win, they played good cricket through the series. For us, it is something to learn and hopefully be more consistent with the bat. [Afghanistan and Ireland series?] Just have to up our game with the bat.”
Pakistan’s regular captain Azhar Ali was thrilled to have clinched the series 2-1, and said: “[Foot injury okay?] “Had a little bit of an infection so had a rest. The wicket looked very good for batting and at one stage we were looking to keep them within 270, but Bilal Asif bowled exceptionally. Only his second game, but he bowled with great maturity. Before this series we had a plan that we wanted to test some new blood and it is very good sign that they have performed and played with confidence. We have achieved our goals from this series.”
Asif was named Man of the Match, and said: “It wasn’t easy. I just did the basics right. That’s why I was able to succeed. Thanks to all my support staff and my team-mates. I am a professional, I have to do well in all kinds of pitches.”
Malik was named Man of the Series, and said: “So far so good [in 2015]. Trying my best and using my experience. First, I would like to thank Waqar and Mustaq Ahmed for bringing me in to the team. They gave me confidence and without my team-mates support, I would not be able to put in these kinds of performances. I would like to wish the Test team all the best for England. I am not part of that team. I have high hopes for these guys, recently they have been playing really well in the UAE and I am sure they will do us proud.”