Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan opener Imam-ul-haq struck a career-best 128 to not only lead his side to a comprehensive 201-run win over Zimbabwe in the first ODI in Bulawayo, but also hand them their first ODI win this year.
Imam was well supported by spinner Shadab Khan, who took career-best figures of 4-32, and fellow opener Fakhar Zaman, who scored 60.
Being put in to bat, Pakistan made a superb start to their innings as Imam and Zaman amassed a 113-run partnership, during which both batsmen brought up their half-centuries.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
With Pakistan cruising, Zimbabwe were in desperate need of a wicket, but they had to wait until the 25th over to get it when Zaman was caught and bowled by debutant Liam Roche for 60, which came off 70 balls and included seven boundaries.
Imam and Babar Azam kept the runs flowing with a 59-run partnership before Azam was dismissed by Wellington Masakadza for 30.
Pakistan’s dominance with the bat continued as Imam and Shoaib Malik added 63 runs to the score, during which Imam surpassed his hundred, before Malik was caught behind off the bowling of Donald Tiripano for 22.
Imam ended up making 128 off 134 deliveries, which included 11 boundaries, before he was removed by Blessing Muzarabani.
Faheem Ashraf fell shortly after, but Asif Ali hammered a 25-ball 46, which included four boundaries and two sixes, to help Pakistan finish on 308/7.
Tiripano and Tendai Chatara were the pick of the bowlers with two wickets, while Muzarabani, Roche and Masakadza chipped in with one wicket each.
Chasing 309 to win, Zimbabwe were dealt a massive blow on the seventh ball of their innings as opener Brian Chari was caught by Zaman at short midwicket off the bowling of Usman Khan for two runs.
Usman struck again in his next over as he sent captain Hamilton Masakadza packing for seven runs.
Chamu Chibhabha and Tarisai Musakanda managed to add 34 runs to the score before Musakanda was caught by Malik at mid-on off the bowling of Ashraf for 21.
Chibhabha went on to score 20 before he was cleaned up by Hasan Ali.
Once Ashraf took out Peter Moor, Shadab took over as he carved through Zimbabwe’s lower order with his four-wicket haul.
As a result, Zimbabwe ended up being skittled out for 107.
Shadab was the most successful bowler with four wickets, while Ashraf and Usman snapped up two wickets apiece. As for Hasan and Mohammad Amir, they claimed one wicket each.
Masakadza was disappointed with his side’s performance, and said: “I thought the seamers bowled well upfront and at the death. We lost it in the middle. Too many soft dismissals – the first three wickets were soft and you can’t chase 300 with that. Murray and Liam made a good account of themselves and showed promise. The guys need to pick themselves up, four more to go.”
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed was thrilled to have won, and said: “If the team performs well, the captain is definitely happy. I think we could have got more runs in the end but there was overcast conditions. Zaman and Imam played well in the first 15 overs. Very pleased with the bowlers’ performance but we need to work more. Every match is very important and we want to take it one by one.”
Imam was named Man of the Match, and said: “It is a great feeling to come back in the side. We did not have a good time in New Zealand and I was working hard. I want to thank the management. We knew if we play the first 10 overs according to the situation, we knew we could put up a good score. Thanks to my parents and the management. If you get set, you make sure you play in the end. I tried to do that and I succeeded today.”