Pakistan defeated Zimbabwe by seven wickets at Queens Sports Club, a few minutes before lunch on the final day to clinch the one-off Test.
Chasing 88 for victory after bundling the home team out for 141 in the second-innings, Pakistan were home in the 22nd over with the winning runs hit by captain Misbahul Haq.
Birthday boy tastes first-over success
The fifth day began with Zimbabwe reeling at 135 for eight, a slim lead of 81 in the second-innings, and Pakistan were quickly in control. The overnight pair of wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu and Kyle Jarvis, who had put on 66 after the hosts were reduced to 69 for eight, could not last long as debutant Aizaz Cheema, celebrating his 32nd birthday, broke through in the first over of the day.
In his next over, Cheema finished off the job and claimed his fourth wicket of the innings as last man Chris Mpofu was caught behind by Adnan Akmal.
The fast-bowler finished with four for 24 to compliment his four wickets in the first-innings to finish with eight for the match.
Having been put into bat, Zimbabwe were all out for 412 in their first-innings before Pakistan replied with 466 to establish a lead of 54. There was not much in it at that stage but spinners Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal spun Pakistan into contention, leaving the tourists with the prospect of a routine mop-up operation.
‘Bowling first may have been wrong’
Misbah praised the opposition after the match was evenly balanced till the third day.
“Maybe I was mistaken asking Zimbabwe to bat first,” said Misbah. “The pitch had green patches. But the bowlers stuck to the task well. Our batting was excellent and of good quality. I’m proud of the youngsters, especially Cheema.
“Zimbabwe are a good side and they will improve with experience and become a strong force in the game.”
Hafeez bagged the man-of-the-match award after he struck a career-high 119 and also claimed best innings figure of four for 31.
Zimbabwe’s 412 looked likely to secure at least a draw, which was their prime target in terms of gaining respect after returning from a self-imposed six-year Test exile. But seven missed chances in Pakistan’s first-innings and the match slipped away.
The first of three One-Day Internationals will be played September 8 followed by two Twenty20s.
“I’m very satisfied. We were away from international cricket for three months and we worked hard. My plan was to play aggressively. My bowling is up to the team’s requirement and I’ll give credit to the fast-bowlers.”
“We were under a bit of pressure when they made 412 but our bowlers did a tremendous job. Credit goes to their batsmen but we responded very well. I’m pleased with Cheema, he’s a hard worker.”
“There were lots of positives but we have to improve. I think it was nerves followed by quality bowling. We let ourselves down and dropped catches did not help. But credit to Pakistan. However, we will keep improving.”
“I won’t rate the win as a huge achievement. It wasn’t against a top-class team but we have achieved our target of finding a fast-bowler who can support the other pacers. This tour was the best opportunity for youngsters.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2011.