BULAWAYO: It might be possible Pakistan don’t even remember playing this game, so perfunctory was their nine-wicket win. Had their minds been completely preoccupied by other concerns – the upcoming Asia Cup, the series against Australia and New Zealand after that, or where they were going to go on holiday – the result of this game was never going to be any different. They bowled brilliantly, batted superbly, but in truth, never got out of second gear. Simply because they didn’t need to.
Fakhar Zaman will have tougher times getting off the mark in some games than he did in coasting, waltzing, sleepwalking to a hundred today. Imam-ul-Haq, for want of something else to do, decided to hang around and give him company; after all, the sun was out and it was a cold day, so why not spend some time in the middle? Babar Azam, who came in after Imam was run out (there was no way in the world Zimbabwe were getting a wicket any other way) looked as good as new since coming back from his arm fracture. In truth, he could have played with that arm in a sling and still stayed around to knock off the winning runs. It took Pakistan just over 35 overs to chase the sub-200 total Zimbabwe had set them in a performance every bit as dominant as the 201-run win on Friday.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers looked completely toothless in attack, fast bowlers and spinners alike reduced to going through the motions against a Pakistan top order that was simply in a different league. blessing Muzarabani, as he often does, still stood out, and could even have had Zaman very late on, only for short fine leg to put an easy chance down. Wellington Masakadza was disciplined with his line, while teenager Liam Roche was on the receiving end of an experience one hopes he learns from rather than ends up being scarred by. The game ended with a tame wide down leg side, Zimbabwe undoubtedly more relieved than Pakistan to get off the pitch.
There is absolutely no disgrace to the hosts here though. Many believed it was Pakistan who would play these games with a second string team and still be too good for Zimbabwe’s best side. Instead, Pakistan played their best eleven, while Zimbabwe have as many as eight first-choice players unavailable – Malcom Waller being the latest to depart. Zimbabwe’s second team has played these two games, and thus no one need be surprised by either the result.
After all, when Donald Tiripano comes in to bat at No. 7, the indication that the talent pool is drying up isn’t all that subtle. This Zimbabwean side is stretched to their limit by the absences in their squad – which seem to be mounting by the match – but cobbled together a gritty innings, setting Pakistan 195 to win. It was woefully below par, but really, what more could they have done?
On a bitterly cold day in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe decided to bat first, but found themselves on the back foot instantly, mustering just three runs and losing a wicket in the first four overs, the ever-impressive Usman Khan doing Brian Chari in with an outswinging delivery he edged behind. Agencies
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