Pakistan 163 for 3 (Fakhar 47, Talat 44, Sarfraz 38*) beat Zimbabwe 162 (Mire 94, Talat 1-10) by seven wickets
On Tuesday, Solomon Mire was most vocal about the pain of seeing Zimbabwe fans turn against their own side and cheer for Australia in their 100-run hammering. On Wednesday, he came up with a heroic batting performance to woo them back, smashing 94 off 63 balls - Zimbabwe's highest individual T20I score - to lift their hopes and morale, but it wasn't enough to see his side to victory. This meant Zimbabwe were also knocked out of the tri-series with one game to play.
As it so often happens, Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, kept his composure to make an unbeaten 38 as Pakistan walked what seemed a potentially difficult chase at one point, with five balls to spare and seven wickets in hand. Sarfraz put together 43 with Hussain Talat, who made 44 from No. 3, to do a bulk of the work as the No. 1 side set up a finale with Australia.
The talk around the Zimbabwe camp leading into the game was the inclusion of the big-hitting Cephas Zhuwao in a must-win game. Although he was good for a few slogs in the Powerplay, he soon ran out of steam, eventually exposing his one-dimensional approach. He was put out of his misery by Faheem Ashraf, who sent his leg stump cartwheeling for 24 in the eighth over.
However, Mire stayed almost till the end, the high notes coming against legspinner Shadab Khan, who was smashed for 16 in an over. He built a decent stand with Tarisai Musakanda, who made a breezy 22-ball 33 to set the platform for a strong finish. The confidence with which he pulled Mohammad Amir over deep square for a six lifted the crowd of a few hundreds to their feet. But for all the brilliance of Mire, there remained a sense Zimbabwe hadn't quite managed to free themselves of the shackles enough to be able to set a target that would seriously worry Pakistan.
Mire overtook Hamilton Masakadza's 93 to become Zimbabwe's highest scorer in a T20I, and a record century loomed, but he fell in the penultimate over to Talat's medium pace, dragging a pull to deep midwicket. When the teams walked off at half-time, the satisfaction Zimbabwe felt was arguably more for an improved performance than a belief they could keep Pakistan from winning the game.
Fakhar Zaman set the ball rolling for Pakistan as they went after left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro, who kept bowling darts in the Powerplay that produced 56. With the asking rate well below eight, Pakistan were in control despite Haris Sohail's struggle. He made 16 off 15 balls before falling in the seventh over to leave Pakistan 58 for 1.
Zimbabwe's bowling depth, however, was tested after being deprived of the wily spin of Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine and the injured Kyle Jarvis. His replacement Chris Mpofu couldn't stem run flow nor sustain any kind of consistency to continue leaking runs. This meant Pakistan were never in panic mode even though there was a brief escalation of pressure after Fakhar fell for 47, with Pakistan needing 68 off 50.
Sarfraz was too clever to let this slip, rotating the strike and finding gaps where none seemingly existed. The departure of Talat with 25 still to remain gave the small crowd another little ray of hope, only for Shoaib Malik to come out and stomp on it instantly. It was an improved showing for the hosts, no doubt, but it will take a lot more from all involved in Zimbabwe cricket to get their fans back onside.