Afridi and Razzaq rout Zimbabwe
Pakistan 292 for 7 (Inzamam-ul-Haq 73, Abdul Razzaq 107*, Shahid Afridi 58, Hondo 3-54) beat Zimbabwe 148 (Sibanda 57, Shoaib Malik 3-37, Shahid Afridi 3-18) by 144 runs
Scorecard and ball by ball details
It was never expected to be a contest, and so it proved in the end, as Pakistan's new improved unit overwhelmed the rookies of Zimbabwe by 144 runs in an echoingly underpopulated Multan stadium in the first match of the Paktel Cup. But for the first 40 overs of the match, Pakistan's prospects were not quite as cushy as they seemed, and it required a blizzard of sixes towards the end of their innings for the prospect of an upset to be completely banished.
After a woeful start to their innings and a cautious rebuilding process, Pakistan had slipped to 146 for 6 when Shahid Afridi came out to join a cautious Adbul Razzaq, whose 95-run partnership with Inzamam-ul-Haq had rescued the team from a sketchy 38 for 4. Without so much as a by-your-leave, Afridi set about the bowling with typical fury, smacking four sixes and five fours in a 26-ball 58, and Razzaq took up the cudgels as well, racing to his second one-day century - 107 not out from 114 balls - of which the second fifty came from just 21 balls.
At 292 for 7, that was effectively that, although Vusi Sibanda did his best to hold up Pakistan's victory surge with a spirited half-century, as Zimbabwe trickled to 148 all out in 38.3 overs. He received little meaningful support, however, apart from an adhesive 29 from Dion Ebrahim that, if anything, erred a little too far on the side of caution given the massive asking rate. Nevertheless, it was a useful learning experience for the Zimbabwe team, especially their bowlers, who could not have been expected to prosper on a typically batsman-friendly subcontinental wicket.
But instead, they came storming out of the blocks. The last time Tinashe Panyangara had been called upon to bowl the first over of a one-day international - against England at Edgbaston in the Champions Trophy - he had sent down seven wides in a fretful performance. Today, however, he was right on the money immediately, as Yasir Hameed edged his first ball straight into Tatenda Taibu's gloves behind the stumps (0 for 1).
Matters got worse before they improved for Pakistan. Douglas Hondo struck with his fourth delivery, as Shoaib Malik attempted to whip across the line and was adjudged lbw to an inducker for 1, and even Yousuf Youhana couldn't turn the tide. Youhana amassed 405 runs in five matches (average: 405) on Pakistan's previous trip to Zimbabwe, but this time he feathered a good-length ball from Hondo through to Taibu, as Pakistan slumped to 6 for 3.
Panyangara then struck for a second time to remove the debutant opener, Bazid Khan - son of Majid - for 12 (38 for 4), and all eyes were on the captain, Multan's favourite son, Inzamam. He attracted immense criticism for that decision to bat first in the Champions Trophy semi-final, but this time he was utterly blameless for his team-mates' shortcomings, even though he might have been a part of the collapse, had Taibu held onto a thin leg-side tickle when Inzamam had made 7.
But surely and maturely, Inzamam set about rebuilding the innings, in partnership with the cool and collected Razzaq, who picked the gaps and stole the singles off Zimbabwe's second-string pairing of Elton Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya. Razzaq had one moment of good fortune, when a checked drive burst through Stuart Matsikenyeri's fingers and clattered him on the nose, but in the very next over, Utseya removed Inzamam for 73, courtesy of an unfortunate lbw decision.
When Moin Khan was stumped off Brendan Taylor's speculative spinners for 7, Pakistan looked set for a second wobble, but Afridi had other ideas. He and Razzaq launched into their brutal onslaught, and before long, Zimbabwe's spirited start to the match was just a distant memory.
Sibanda did his best to forge a reply, batting with great common sense for his 57 from 69 balls, which included a six over long-on to bring up his fifty. But the rest of Zimbabwe's top order found survival rather harder to cling to. Matsikenyeri was pinned lbw by Naved-ul-Hasan for 0, before Brendan Taylor had his off stump plucked out by a fizzer from Shoaib Akhtar, that would have cleaned up many more experienced players (8 for 2).
It was left to the spinners Afridi and Malik to wrap up the match. Afridi's spell was particularly buoyant - he bowled Taibu for 3 with his very first delivery, and caused havoc among the tailenders as he whistled topspinners and legbreaks past cagey defensive shots. He even sent down a venomous 76mph bouncer, before wrapping up the match by bowling Hondo for 1.