We lacked the killer instinct - Brown
It wasn't the most exciting of matches, but the win helped Pakistan clinch the Mobilink Cup and reverse the trend of recent losses in Multan. Convincing but not attractive, the unassailable 3-0 lead will be a relief for Pakistan, given their decision to field a young and inexperienced bowling attack.
The home side were greatly indebted to Shahid Afridi whose 52-ball 85 not only bailed Pakistan out of a hole - 78 for 5 - but also provided a holiday crowd precious moments to make their presence felt. Equalling Sanath Jayasuriya's record of 245 sixes in ODIs, Afridi's knock showcased his increasing maturity of late.
"It was a tough situation to come and bat in," Afridi said after the match. "We had just lost quick wickets and we needed to rebuild effectively and post a good total."
Known for his aggressive batting irrespective of the situation, Afridi initially relied more on singles and twos rather than using the long handle. A mishit did bring him his first boundary but Afridi managed to play himself in with plenty of twos, cutting the spinners and driving straight down the ground. From then on, it was all power hitting.
"After a cautious start, I played my natural game. There was no pressure on me and the situation demanded quick runs. Fortunately, my attacking ploy worked and it ended up as a positive innings. Zimbabwe have a good bowling line-up and it was not a case of taking them easy. It was merely playing the bowling on merit and even though getting a century would have been a huge honour, I'm happy with my effort in helping Pakistan post a good total."
Zimbabwe could take a lot out of their much-improved bowling performance - before Afridi intervened, that is. Robin Brown, Zimbabwe's coach, put the failure to contain Pakistan after a brilliant effort by Tawanda Mupariwa down to a lack of experience.
"We basically lacked the killer instinct that is required to polish things off," Brown said following the 37-run defeat. "Obviously (we are) disappointed by the effort we put in, it would take a lot of skills and effort to contain the strong Pakistan line-up, something we are lacking."
Mupariwa, in his first match of the tour, was Zimbabwe's best bowler, finishing with 4 for 46, his best ODI figures. After the wicket of Younis Khan off his first ball of the day, he added the scalps of Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Yousuf, courtesy of a sharp caught-and-bowled.
"It was hard work paying off," Mupariwa said. "They have an experienced top order and it was something special to get those wickets that early on. The plan now is to work harder and get as many wickets in the next two matches to hopefully make the scoreline look 3-2."
|I wouldn't say it was a negative approach. Pakistan bowled really well. They bowled in the right areas and there weren't that many bad balls - Robin Brown defends Zimbabwe's batting strategy|
Zimbabwe's effort with the bat was rather surprising. Adopting a defensive approach, it seemed batting practice was what the touring side was after rather than overhauling Pakistan's total. With Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams - promoted to No. 3 - untroubled under lights, and with Pakistan keen to limit boundaries rather than look for wickets, an earnest chase might have spiced things up.
After both batsmen made fifties, Zimbabwe required 128 off 17 overs with seven wickets in hand. Instead, they only managed 235, hit only nine fours and failed to clear the boundary even once. Brown, however, dismissed claims of a defensive approach.
"I wouldn't say it was a negative approach. Pakistan bowled really well. They bowled in the right areas and there weren't that many bad balls," he said. "Therefore, it made things really difficult for us and although the batsmen were well set, hitting boundaries became really difficult and the asking-rate kept climbing.
"There are, however, things to be improved upon," Brown admitted. "Most of our batsmen have been among the runs. Two of our batsmen scored fifties today. We need to look to get 6-7 fifties in a match and only then will we be able to win. Hopefully, we can learn quickly enough to win the next two matches."
Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo