Zimbabwe had a rare chance of winning an international series against a top team when they headed into the third ODI of the series against Pakistan at Harare on Saturday with the three-game event tied 1-1. However, their lack of big match experience came to haunt them as they went down without much of a fight in the final one-dayer. They managed to do well in phases with the ball, but with the bat they were found to be completely incompetent, which was one of the major reasons of their downfall.
The match was played against the backdrop of the fee dispute between Zimbabwe’s cricketers and the board, which must have been at the back of the players as they took the field. It would have helped had the Zimbabwe bowlers got an early wicket after inserting Pakistan in to bat. But, it wasn’t to be as Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad put on a steady opening partnership. To their credit, Zimbabwe did not allow the Pakistan bowlers to run away with the match. However, since Pakistan kept wickets in hand, they managed to end up with a competitive score towards the end.
Pakistan were steady throughout their innings without ever being spectacular. Shehzad could not find the hitting form he displayed in the T20s. Credibly, he did not give his wicket away and went on to complete a painstaking half-century. The real test of a player comes when he is going through a difficult time. In that context, Shehzad has shown that he is a sensible player. Pakistan were dealt a blow when Mohammad Hafeez had to head back to the pavilion having picked up an injury. At that stage, Pakistan had to ensure that they didn’t lose another wicket quickly. Shehzad made sure that did not happen.
Zimbabwe had done well to restrict the Pakistanis even though they weren’t picking up too many wickets. This is where skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq’s contribution was crucial. He also made an excruciatingly slow start, but made up for it with some big hitting towards the end. Also crucial were the swift cameos by Umar Amin and Sarfaraz Ahmed. Had it not been for their lusty strokes, Pakistan would not have ended up with a competitive score. Zimbabwe’s bowlers would have had mixed feelings at the end of Pakistan’s innings. They maintained a tight leash for most part, but allowed the opponents to run away at the end.
To clinch the series, Zimbabwe needed their seniors to stand up, but most of them disappointed. Hamilton Masakadza and skipper Brendan Taylor both got starts but failed to capitalise on the same. Their running between the wickets was also shoddy with Taylor and Prosper Utseya falling to run-outs. Except for Malcolm Waller nobody occupied the crease for a prolonged period of time as a result of which the Zimbabwe innings never got going. There was some smart captaincy from Misbah, who introduced spin very early on in Zimbabwe’s innings, and the host’s weaknesses were very well exploited. It must be said that, in the end, the better team won the series although Zimbabwe had their moments in all the games.
--By A Cricket Analyst