Pakistan v Zimbabwe, 1st ODI, Karachi January 21, 2008

'We thought we could do well chasing' - Utseya

Younis Khan was one of eight batsmen to score a fifty on what Shoaib Malik described as a "very, very flat wicket" © AFP

Zimbabwe were always likely to be up against it, no matter what side Pakistan turned out, but to win the toss and field on a pancake-flat Karachi track was surely not going to help their cause. Still, Prosper Utseya, the quiet, young captain, had his reasons for doing so.

"We don't have enough experience of playing in such conditions," he explained after his side lost the opening ODI of the series by 104 runs. "We thought we could do well chasing. 347 was obviously too much of a target but if we had kept them to under 300, it was doable."

There is logic there, for Zimbabwe are not a poor batting side. In their last eight ODIs they have only failed to go past 200 twice and have scored over 240 four times. Indeed, their batting wasn't the problem here either. Vusi Sibanda and Chamu Chibhabha might even have entertained vague notions of a chase until the 20th over: both scoring confident, contrasting fifties. Sean Williams added a battling, if ultimately futile one at the end, but as Utseya noted, there is something there.

"Three of our guys got fifties and that is definitely a positive for us. We can take that confidence in to our next match," he said. "We also fielded well and took our catches, so I don't think fielding first was a mistake."

What he didn't linger on, and what is likely to be a factor as the series progresses, is their bowling, which appears desperately weak on today's evidence. Shoaib Malik, who capped a fine match with three wickets to add to a fifty, was probably stretching the bounds of Pakistani hospitality when he said Zimbabwe bowled well.

Perhaps it was the effort they put in he was lauding, but at no stage in Pakistan's innings did the batsmen appear under any pressure. Nasir Jamshed, with the honesty of a debutant, seemed to get it about right when asked which bowler troubled him most during a commanding 48-ball 61: "None of them."

Jamshed was one of five batsmen to score fifty for Pakistan - a record - and one of eight in the match - also a record. But if Pakistan will be perturbed about anything - and it is nitpicking really - it would be the stick Samiullah Khan and Rao Iftikhar Anjum received.

"It was a very, very flat wicket," Malik said. "Every bowler gets hit around occasionally, but when he does, you have to see what he is trying to do when he is being hit. Is he bowling restrictively, is he trying to take wickets?"

Pakistan's combination might also need tinkering and it might be the case in Hyderabad as Malik later hinted; they played with only five bowling options, two of whom are allrounders. They ended the game bowling Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. "We had only five bowlers today so I wanted to give some confidence to our non-regular bowlers," was Malik's response, which may or may not have been said with tongue fully in cheek.

The imbalance was the result, it is learnt, of a selectorial disagreement a few days before the match. Malik was keen - as he said publicly - on using Kamran Akmal as an opener, thus letting him try out another specialist bowler. The selectors wanted, however, to try out Jamshed, as a possible solution to the eternal opening conundrum. Nobody will be too unhappy with the results, but Pakistan will be keen to try out an extra bowler somewhere along the line, especially as they couldn't bowl Zimbabwe out here.

"Zimbabwe are a good side. There was a lot of effort on their part today," Malik recognised. That is undeniable, but it probably won't be enough over the next four matches.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo