Pakistan 157 for 4 (Babar 82, Hafeez 36, Muzarbani 2-26) beat Zimbabwe 156 for 6 (Madhevere 70, Rauf 2-25, 2-37) by six wickets
Zimbabwe have perhaps exceeded expectations on this tour so far, but they turned in one of their more lackadaisical performances today, as Pakistan cantered to a six-wicket win in the first T20I between the sides. Opting to bat first, Zimbabwe were pegged back early, and Pakistan peppered them with regular wickets as the visitors struggled to build momentum. Only Wesley Madhevere really appeared comfortable with what were batting-friendly conditions, bolstering his reputation with a classy 48-ball 70 to give his side 156 to defend. It was never close to par, and Babar Azam punished Zimbabwe for it, countering with his own elegant innings, a 55-ball 82 to run the target down with seven balls to spare.
Pakistan rested Shaheen Afridi for the game, but with Zimbabwe captain Chamu Chibhabha a walking wicket on current form, it almost appeared inevitable he would fall early, Shaheen or not. Mohammad Hasnain, fresh off a five-for, needed just two balls to send him back, leaving the usual pair of Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams to attempt a rebuild. Taylor's cameo meant Zimbabwe's start was respectable, but his side needed more from him, and when he holed out for 20, it was a bitter blow.
Enter Madhevere. The 20-year old is without doubt the bright spark of this tour for the visitors, and when he rocked back to knock Usman Qadir out of the park off a delivery there was really nothing wrong with, it was evident he would be key to his side's hopes.
Partners at the other end were in short supply, though. Williams couldn't carry on beyond 25, handing Qadir his first T20I wicket when he charged at the legspinner, only to miss and watch the ball cannon into his stumps. Sikandar Raza was done by the extra pace from Wahab, scooping the ball up from the shoulder of the bat to be forced off cheaply, while Burl's stuttering innings heaped even more pressure on Madhevere to keep the runs flowing.
He did that, brilliantly, bringing up his half-century in just 35 balls and following up with successive boundaries off Faheem, and was aided by Elton Chigumbura, who announced earlier today this would be his last international series. But despite that late little surge, Zimbabwe only put 156 on the board on a wicket that offered at least 30 more as a par score.
Defending even that might have proved a challenge for how untroubled the Pakistan captain looked in the chase. Fakhar Zaman's little flurry was ended cheaply at the other end, while an out-of-sorts Haider Ali was removed thanks to a fantastic diving catch from Brendan Taylor.
All that, however, was a mere footnote to what happened at the other end. By this time, Babar had raced to 35, and brought up another T20 half-century with the effortlessness of a man at the peak of his powers. Mohammad Hafeez at the other end demonstrated his own experience in an unfussy partnership where all he had to do was keep Babar on strike, and despite looking like they were almost going through the motions, the pair put together 80 off just 57 deliveries to bring the target to under 15.
Zimbabwe will be disappointed with their efforts both with the ball and in the field, offering up far too many loose deliveries and dropping a couple of fairly straightforward catches in a game where they could ill-afford to be generous. Even so, Babar will be frustrated he wasn't able to finish the game off, holing out for 82, but the game was as good as done either way. Zimbabwe had one final laugh when Blessing Muzarabani knocked back Hafeez's off stump with one run to get, but he would only succeed in embellishing his figures before Pakistan wrapped things up.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000