Pakistan 149 for 7 (Rizwan 82*, Madhevere 2-11, Jonwe 2-24) beat Zimbabwe 138 for 7 (Ervine 34, Qadir 3-29, Hasnain 2-27) by 11 runs
Zimbabwe fell 12 runs short of beating Pakistan in a T20I for the first time after being well-set in chase of 150. A 56-run third wicket stand between Tinashe Kamunhukamwe and Craig Ervine put Zimbabwe on 77 for 2 in the 11th over but Babar Azam's masterstroke to use Mohammad Hafeez's offspin, after he has only bowled one over in 14 T20Is since November 2018, sparked a collapse that saw Zimbabwe lose 4 for 18 in 18 balls and left too much for the lower-order to do. Luke Jongwe's 30 off 23 balls almost pulled off a coup but Haris Rauf defended 20 off the last over to ensure Pakistan took the series lead.
Pakistan's total was almost single-handedly built by Mohammad Rizwan, who racked up his fifth score of 50 runs or more in his last eight T20I innings, and made 82 of their 149. No-one else contributed more than 15 runs. Pakistan particularly struggled against Zimbabwe's spinners - Wellington Masakadza and Wesley Madhevere, who conceded 32 runs in five overs between them - and will continue to look for solutions to make their middle-order tick.
Zimbabwe's misses and one hot take
High catches evaded Zimbabwe who put down two chances inside the powerplay that could have changed the complexion of the Pakistan innings. After dismissing Azam early, Zimbabwe had the chance to get rid of Rizwan on 13 when he top-edged a pull off Richard Ngarava in the fifth over. Kamunhukamwe had to dive forward to take the chance but only almost fell on his face for his efforts. In the next over, Fakhar Zaman drove aerially to mid-on where Sean Williams was stationed. He had to backpedal to get to the ball and did but it burst through his hands. Zaman's drop only cost seven runs but Rizwan went on to an undefeated 82.
More opportunities came. But they still went down. An over after that, Hafeez offered Masakadza a return catch but the left-arm spinner struggled to pick the ball up at head height. At the start of the 13th over, Richmond Mutumbami put down a regulation catch off Danish Aziz's edge.
In all of that, Zimbabwe managed to pull off a blinder. Ngarava timed his leap at short third man perfectly when Hafeez tried to hit a short and wide ball over the in-field and didn't get enough on it. Ngarava took the catch to his right and held on even as his elbows hit the ground when he landed.
Rizwan's last over burst
After restricting Pakistan to 96 for 4 in 15 overs, Zimbabwe would have been eyeing keeping them to around 130 and very nearly got there. They did not concede any boundaries in overs 16, 17, 18 or 19 but Rizwan put that right with a final over burst. He waited for an Ngarava slower ball and bisected the gap between mid-off and cover-point, then went aerial over cover before Ryan Burl cut it off to ensure there was only two runs, but then cleared cow corner despite a good effort to take the catch and found fours through the covers and fine leg to take 20 off the final over.
The hat-trick that could have been
Mohammad Hasnain made his return to the attack after missing out on most of the T20I series in South Africa and could have done it with a hat-trick, but for a drop. Wesley Madhevere, opening in place of Brendan Taylor, flicked the fourth ball of Hasnain's second over to Zaman at midwicket. Zaman reacted slowly and the ball was dying on him and he couldn't get to it despite diving forward. Madhevere was out off the next ball when he top-edged a short ball to Azam at mid-off. The ball after that debutant Tadiwanashe Marumani went in exactly the same fashion, top-edging a pull to Azam, at mid-on and was dismissed for a first-ball duck. Despite creating three chances in three balls, Hasnain had to wait until the 17th over for his hat-trick ball and it almost got him there. He bowled hard length on off stump and Jongwe cleared the front leg and swung with all his might, but missed.
Rashid Khan was the difference between Zimbabwe and Afghanistan a couple of months ago so it was hardly surprising when Pakistan immediately installed Usman Qadir in their XI for this match and at first it seemed Zimbabwe had learnt from their mistakes. Craig Ervine slogged the first ball Qadir bowled, a googly for six and took 11 runs off his first over, but got ahead of himself. When Ervine tried to reverse sweep Qadir in his next over he top-edged and was caught to depart two balls after Kamunhukamwe and spark a mini collapse. Qadir did even more damage in his third over and had Sean Williams caught on the sweep and Regis Chakbva rapped on the pads by a googly. Zimbabwe tumbled from 77 for 2 to 95 for 6, a position from which victory became difficult.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent