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Imam's 128 leads Pakistan to first ODI win in 2018

Pakistan 308 for 7 (Imam 128, Fakhar 60, Chatara 2-49) beat Zimbabwe 107 all out (Murray 32*, Shadab 4-32, Faheem 2-14) by 201 runs

Pakistan romped to victory against Zimbabwe in the first ODI at Queen's Sports Club, Bulawayo, pummelling the hosts by 201 runs. It was their first win of the year, but on the evidence of the gulf in ability between these two sides, it appears inevitable they will add four more in the next ten days or so.

A career-best 128 from opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq helped Pakistan amass 308. It was plenty against the beleaguered Zimbabweans, who didn't at any point look like either keeping in touch with the run rate or knitting together a partnership.

A side depleted by infighting, and lately, injury, never looked like a batting unit of international calibre. While some of the weaknesses were papered over by Solomon Mire's brilliance in the T20I tri-series, they stood well and truly exposed on Friday.

Debutant Ryan Murray was, if you were particularly determined in looking for a positive, unbeaten on 32 by the time the innings wrapped up for 107, but only one other batsman crossed 20. It was a feeding frenzy for Pakistan's bowlers, Usman Shinwari beginning the bloodbath with two early wickets, while Shadab walked away with career-best four for 32 to seal Pakistan's fifth biggest win in ODI history.

Pakistan, who were put in to bat under overcast skies in the morning, were unusually cautious in the first hour or so, in stark contrast to the approach they've become known for over the past two years. The run rate was under four for the first 15 overs, and they didn't seem to get out of second gear even after that.

It wouldn't be remiss to give the Zimbabwean bowlers some credit for that, though. The opening pair was excellent with the new ball, Blessing Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara maintaining a steady off stump line that repeatedly threatened to draw Imam's outside edge. Despite being slow, the innings was played almost entirely on Pakistan's terms. When Fakhar Zaman and Imam did begin to accelerate slightly, Zimbabwe looked short on ideas as to how they would be contained.

They brought on 18-year old offspinner and captain of the Under-19 Zimbabwean team Liam Roche, a debutant with a pleasing high arm action and a mop of hair almost just as eye-catching. And he struck the big blow in the 25th over, removing Fakhar with a sharp catch off his own bowling to claim his first international wicket.

By then, Imam, who had looked so tentative against the new ball, was slowly coming into his own. Playing his first match in Zimbabwe - he hadn't been part of Pakistan's triumphant tri-series last week - he was solid once the first 10 overs had been seen off. It still wasn't the modern one-day innings you might have come to expect from a 21-year old opener in this new Pakistan side.

It took him 75 balls to reach his 50, but after that, he was chiefly responsible for picking up the pace of the innings. It began when he smashed Roche out of the attack shortly after Fakhar fell, hitting four boundaries in his seventh over and hurtling towards his second ODI century.

As Imam began to tire after reaching his century - given a reprieve when wicketkeeper Murray put down a tough diving chance on 77 - it was debutant Asif Ali who gave the innings the impetus it lacked for the first 40 overs. The power hitter Pakistan have been crying out for in leaner times over the years, smashed four fours and two sixes in a 25-ball 46, catapulting Pakistan past 300.

While Asif was in full flow, it looked as if Pakistan would get close to 325, but Chatara, who ended up arguably the best Zimbabwean bowler on the day, removed him two overs before the close to drag Pakistan back.

However, those hypothetical few runs they might have added were decidedly academic in the end, with Zimbabwe looking far removed from putting up any meaningful resistance to this world-beating Pakistan side. The thought there are four more of these games to go is a somewhat disconcerting one, not least for the Zimbabwean players who're sitting this one out.