PAKISTAN opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad scored a half century while Shahid Afridi claimed three wickets to steer their team to a deserved 25-run victory over Zimbabwe in the opening Twenty20 cricket encounter at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Shehzad was named man-of-the-match from his 70 off 50 balls ensured Pakistan recovered after a slow start to post a competitive total of 161 for five in their allotted 20 overs after Zimbabwe had won the toss and elected to bowl first.
An opening stand of 53 runs by Vusi Sibanda (31) and Hamilton Masakadza (18) gave Zimbabwe hope of an unlikely upset before Afridi stifled Zimbabwe’s run chase to ensure they finished on 136 for five after 20 overs.
Afridi, whose clever leg-break variations proved a handful for Zimbabwe, finished with impressive bowling figures of three wickets for 21 runs in five overs.
Zimbabwe, however, only had themselves to blame for the defeat after they had initially got off to a bright start courtesy of some good bowling from seamer Tendai Chatara.
Chatara vindicated his captain’s decision to bowl first while also showing that there is life after Kyle Jarvis by claiming two early wickets in his first two overs.
The Mutare-born pace bowler had the dangerous Nasir Jamshed (2) and Mohammed Hafeez (3) back in the pavilion in his first two overs. Zimbabwe, however, failed to sustain the pressure allowing Pakistan to get back in the game.
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After Umar Amin (14) failed to convert his start, Shahzad needed a 54-run fourth wicket partnership stand with debutant Shoaib Maqsood (26) to rebuild Pakistan’s innings.
While Pakistan’s innings was anchored on one strong partnership and a few nasty blows towards the end, Zimbabwe’s innings never got into second gear as they lacked a power hitter in the mould of Sikandar Raza.
Raza, who played well against India, was surprisingly left out of the team and his replacement Timycen Maruma failed to justify his inclusion.
Captain Brendan Taylor’s unbeaten 31 off 30 balls proved only academic as the home side never came close to chasing down Pakistan’s total.
Zimbabwe will be hoping to level the series when they take on the same team in the second and final Twenty20 at the same venue before the first of the three one-day-internationals on Tuesday.