Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq and batsman Babar Azam scored 110 and 106 not out respectively as their side demolished Zimbabwe by 131 runs in the fifth ODI in Bulawayo.
Choosing to bat first, Pakistan made an exceptional start to their innings once again as Imam and Fakhar Zaman amassed a 168-run partnership, during which both batsmen surpassed their half-centuries.
With Pakistan cruising towards a massive total once again, Zimbabwe were in dire need of a wicket. However, they had to wait until the 25th over to get it as Zaman was caught behind off the bowling of Liam Roche for 85, which came off 83 balls and included 10 boundaries and a six.
During his innings, Zaman became the fastest batsman to score 1,000 ODI runs, needing just 18 innings to do so. The previous record was 21 innings, which was held by Sir Vivian Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Quinton de Kock and Azam.
Imam and Azam kept the runs flowing with a 77-run stand, during which Imam brought up his hundred, before he was trapped lbw off the bowling of Wellington Masakadza for 110, which came off 105 deliveries and included eight boundaries and a six.
Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali both scored 18 runs, but Azam upped the ante towards the end of the innings and proceeded to bring up his century in the last over.
Azam ended up making 106 off 76 balls, which included nine boundaries and two sixes, as Pakistan finished on 364/4 off their 50 overs.
Roche, Masakadza, Chris Mpofu and Tendai Chatara picked up one wicket apiece.
Chasing 365 to win, Zimbabwe made a solid start to their innings as captain Hamilton Masakadza and Tinashe Kamunhukamwe put together a 66-run partnership before Kamunhukamwe was dismissed by Mohammad Nawaz for 34.
Masakadza also made 34 before being clean bowled by Hasan Ali.
Despite losing Kamunhukamwe and Masakadza in quick succession, Prince Masvaure and Ryan Murray stabilised the innings with a 78-run stand.
However, Zimbabwe were once again dealt a double blow as Masvaure became Hasan’s second victim, while Murray was cleaned up by Nawaz for 47.
Even though Peter Moor and Elton Chigumbura proceeded to muster an unbeaten 67-run partnership, it wasn’t enough to lead Zimbabwe over the finish line as they concluded their innings on 233/4.
Moor finished on 44 off 54 balls, which included two boundaries and two sixes, while Chigumbura remained undefeated on 25 off 37 deliveries, which included a boundary and a six.
Nawaz and Hasan claimed two wickets each.
Masakadza was disappointed to lose the series, and said: “Starts all the way down, but no one really pushed on. We spoke about wanting someone to push on, but that didn’t happen. We wanted to get to 250. I think a few of the guys are new to international cricket, and this series has shown how big a gap there is, and how much work remains to be done before our next series.”
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed was thrilled to have completed the 5-0 whitewash, and said: “Great team effort, we wanted to finish on a high note, and Fakhar, Imam and Babar responded brilliantly. We need a one-month rest, we’ll go home and then back to training for the Asia Cup. A couple of big Test series too, after that.”
Azam was named Man of the Match.