Visitors aim to improve performance, win series
Pakistan’s T20I squad currently have the lead in the three-match T20 series against Zimbabwe, after a 11 run victory on Wednesday. It was a close contest that will leave the Chevrons with much to reflect on. They will see this as a missed opportunity. For this was a match decided by Zimbabwe misfields and a lack of composure at key moments.
Rizwan revives Pakistani hopes
Zimbabwe Captain Sean Williams won the toss and elected to field first. In came Mohammad Rizwan and captain Babar Azam to lead off the hitting for Pakistan.
Things got off to a promising start for the Chevrons. Azam went early, caught by Ryan Burl off of a ball from Blessing Muzarabani. Muzarabai continued his good form from Zimbabwe’s last encounter with Pakistan’s T20I squad.
It was soon after Azam’s dismissal, though, that perhaps the key moment of the match occurred. Off of Richard Ngarava’s delivery, Rizwan hit the ball high towards mid on. “Catch!” cried Ngarava. Rizwan looked away in disgust. Kamunhukamwe seemed certain to catch it. But somehow the ball popped out of his grasp and hit the grass.
At this point in the match Pakistan were 21/1. Rizwan would go on to finish not out on 82 runs from 61 balls. Most damning, 20 of these runs came from the final over. Richard Ngarava was the bowler responsible for this costly over, 0,4,2,6,4,4. Pakistan would end their innings 149-7.
Hosts fall short despite all-round effort
Still, Zimbabwe would have backed themselves to catch Pakistan. And they seemed on course to do so as Tinashe Kamunhukamwe and Craig Ervine built a 50-run partnership. But then things began to fall apart when Kamunhukamwe’s wicket fell. A rush of blood and a wild forward swing from the 25 year old allowed Rizwan to stump him.
Ervine was next to go, impressively caught by Mohammad Nawaz. With Kamunhukamwe and Ervine gone, Zimbabwe struggled.
After bowling well, Luke Jongwe continued to validate his return to the squad after a long absence. He offered some hope by pulling off a few clever shots. He would finish not out with 30 runs from 23 balls.
But in the end, Rizwan’s 20-run final over was enough to put the match beyond Zimbabwe. They finished their innings 1387.
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Recent results: Pakistan’s T20I squad
Pakistan go into the second game coming off a triumphant four-match T20I series against South Africa, which they won 3-1 and having triumphed in the first game.
Conversely, Zimbabwe go into this series on the back of four resounding T20I losses. These came at the hands of Afghanistan in March, during their series in Abu Dhabi and in the first game against Pakistan. Although their Test match series was tied 1-1, Afghanistan swept the Chevrons in the T20 series, winning it 3-0. Putting on poor showings with the bat, Zimbabwe lost all three T20 matches by over 40 runs.
Are Babar’s men out for revenge?
This tour of Zimbabwe is an opportunity for Pakistan’s T20I squad to assert revenge for their last encounter with the Chevrons. This was a dramatic ODI on 4 November, 2020. With the score tied, Zimbabwe 278/6, Pakistan 278/9, the match went to a super over. This would be the second ever ODI super over.
In the super over, Zimbabwe’s Blessing Muzarabani came in to deliver the batting partnership of Iftikhar Ahmed and Khushdil Shahto. Muzarabani’s first ball was hit high in the air by Iftikhar and caught by Craig Ervine at deep-square leg.
With Fakhar Zaman now in for the retired Iftikhar, Muzarabani then conceded only two runs off his next two deliveries. Then, with his fourth ball, he bowled Khushdil, leaving Zimbabwe needing only three runs for victory.
Batting for Zimbabwe, Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza went in to face the pace of Shaheen Afridi. Taylor scored a run from Shaheen’s first delivery. Now with Raza on strike, Shaheen managed a dot ball from a bouncer that Raza swung at and missed. But on Shaheen’s next ball Raza made contact. And a misfield by Wahab Riaz at mid-on allowed the ball to run away to the boundary. Zimbabwe had beaten Pakistan.
2nd T20I: 23rd April 2021
3rd T20I: 25th April 2021
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Heath Streak’s eight-year ICC ban
Last week, along with wrapping up its domestic T20 competition, Zimbabwe Cricket also had to manage some unpleasant news. One of Zimbabwe’s most revered cricketers, Heath Streak, was handed an eight-year ban by the ICC for breaching their anti-corruption rules.
Streak was part of Zimbabwe’s international team throughout the 90s and early 2000s. He played in teams that included Andy Flower and Zimbabwe’s first black player Henry Olonga. Streak’s time with the international team coincides with what is without doubt Zimbabwe’s most successful period.
“He has let down cricket,” wrote Zimbabwe Cricket Chairman, Tavengwa Mukuhlani, in a statement released on 15 April. “He has let down the teams and players he coached. He has let the nation down. He has let down the fans – including impressionable children – who loved and idolized him.”
Hopefully, with this series against Pakistan, Zimbabwe can begin to heal the wounds created by Heath Streak’s downfall. With some heroic performances on the cricket pitch, maybe they can give their fans some new heroes to love and idolize.
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