Yasir six-for leads Pakistan to 131-run win
Pakistan 259 for 6 (Rizwan 75*, Wasim 61) beat Zimbabwe 128 (Yasir 6-26) by 131 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball-details
Pakistan cruised to a 131-run win over Zimbabwe in the first one-day international at Harare Sports Club, the match following what has become a familiar script during this tour. Pakistan's lower middle order rallied their side to a good score, and their spin attack, led by Yasir Shah's 6 for 26, then systematically dismantled Zimbabwe's line-up. Yasir's haul was the second best by a Pakistan spinner, and the best ever by a spinner in Zimbabwe.
Asked to bat first, Pakistan's top order stumbled against a spirited Zimbabwean bowling effort before Mohammad Rizwan's career-best 75 not out and Imad Wasim's 61, which was his maiden international fifty, boosted the visitors to a challenging 259 for 6. Rizwan and Wasim had added 124 for the sixth wicket, but no Zimbabwean partnership came close to matching them as the hosts crumbled under sustained pressure.
Once again, the batsmen struggled to rotate the strike and then inevitably offered Pakistan chances as they sought to ease the pressure with a big shot. The 35-run stand between Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza was the most substantial of the innings, and legspinner Yasir collected his first five-for in ODIs with Zimbabwe having no answer to his combination of turn, bounce and guile.
Pakistan had been reduced to a wobbly 35 for 3 in the morning as Zimbabwe's new-ball bowlers found seam and swing on a slightly resher wicket before Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik combined to take the score to 100. When they were both dismissed attempting to attack spin Zimbabwe surged once again, but Rizwan and Wasim weathered their best efforts.
Rizwan marshalled Pakistan's effort from the halfway mark of their innings, starting watchfully against Zimbabwe's spinners before he broke free with what was perhaps the shot of the day; a checked loft off offspinner John Nyumbu that soared over long on. With Nyumbu, Graeme Cremer and Sean Williams all included in Zimbabwe's XI, Rizwan faced spin for much of his innings. He certainly showed that he had the aptitude to counter these bowlers in helpful conditions, milking the gaps and finding the boundary with a sweep off Cremer and a deft late cut off Nyumbu.
A particular feature of Rizwan's stand with Wasim was their running between the wickets: something which had been highlighted as an area of concern for both teams after the Twenty20s. Eight twos came off Rizwan's bat during their stand, while Wasim added seven. This ensured that the score kept ticking over even when boundaries were not forthcoming, and set the platform for Pakistan's charge at the death.
Pakistan added 88 runs in the last ten overs as the big hits became more frequent, with Rizwan bringing up a 61-ball fifty in the 46th over. Wasim brought up a maiden international fifty of his own two overs later, reaching the mark with a superb reverse sweep off Tinashe Panyangara. Wasim had been given a life thanks to Williams' drop at long-on earlier in the over, and there was a ragged edge to Zimbabwe's effort at the death. Tempers also flared in Panyangara's final over, from which Pakistan plundered 22 runs, as the bowler took offence to what he saw as Rizwan's intentional obstruction of his fielding efforts. The batsman stood his ground as Sikandar Raza played peacemaker, and closed the innings on an emphatic note with his second six, straight over the bowler's head.
Pakistan carried that bellicose attitude into the field, and both Zimbabwean openers were given a thorough working over with the new ball. Yet all 10 wickets fell to spin. Chamu Chibhabha averages 19.72 in matches in which he has been dismissed by a left-arm spinner, and has collected more ducks against this type of bowler than any other - three. He had opened his account by the time Wasim was brought on in the ninth over, but then fell immediately, trapped in front by the left-arm spinner's first ball.
Yasir then took centre stage, nipping one through the yawning gap between debutant Brian Chari's bat and pad and skittling Hamilton Masakadza with a ball that kept a touch low and rushed on. Raza and Elton Chigumbura fell on the drive, failing to cover Yasir's prodigious spin, while Richmond Mutumbami's dismissal came via a stunning reflex catch, low to the ground, by Hafeez at slip. When Panyangara gloved one to slip Yasir had his sixth, and Zimbabwe had crashed from 101 for 4 to 128 all out.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town