Another half-century by Mukhtar Ahmed and Bilawal Bhatti’s late burst snatched victory from the jaws of Zimbabwe as Pakistan won the second T20I by two wickets and the T20I series 2-0 at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
It was Bhatti’s 13-run cameo off five balls which steered Pakistan home after the team required 12 runs in the last over, with the men in green chasing down a 176-run target with two balls to spare.
“Zimbabwe played really well and we enjoyed the competition,” said Afridi in the post-match presentation. “We made a couple of changes and the new players seem promising, but there’s still major room for improvement.”
The fans’ support and enthusiasm was hardly lost on the captain. “I would like to praise the crowd, they have been amazing throughout and have a given message to the world that Pakistan wants to see cricket at home,” he said.
Afridi further admitted that the bowling was not up to the mark as Pakistan were looking to restrict Zimbabwe around 150 but failed in that objective.
Pakistan had made three changes, resting vice-captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz, to bring in Mohammad Rizwan and debutants Nouman Anwar and Imad Wasim.
Set a stiff target of 176, Pakistan got off to a decent start as Mukhtar Ahmed along with Ahmed Shehzad, provided a 44-run opening stand, but Shehzad fell on 18 to Vitori to bring an end to the partnership.
Nouman showed great promise in his 10-ball 18 laced with a six and two boundaries before he was caught on the boundary. Players came and went by but Umar Akmal — who made a 30-run contribution in the middle — kept Pakistan in the hunt before the win was wrapped up by Bhatti.
Meanwhile, Christopher Mpofu and Sean Williams picked up two wickets apiece.
Mukhtar bagged the man-of-the-match and man-of-the-series awards for his contribution.
Earlier, Zimbabwe once again showed how well they have improved as a batting unit by posting 175-3 in their 20 overs to cross the 170-run mark for the second time running.
Once again, it was Hamilton Masakadza who opened the floodgates with free-flowing strokeplay. He was involved in a 68-run opening stand with Vusi Sibanda before he was caught at by Anwar Ali off Shoaib Malik after a 32-ball 39, hitting a six and four boundaries in the process.
While Sibanda went about his business quietly, Sean Williams left Pakistani bowlers looking over their shoulders with exquisite improvisation and the two also put up a 68-run stand.
Sibanda was dismissed by Shahid Afridi on 49 off 46, which brought in skipper Elton Chigumbura, who hit Mohammad Sami for consecutive three sixes in his 21-run cameo before falling to the same bowler.
Williams remained unbeaten on 58, which came off 32 deliveries as he hit a solitary six and seven boundaries.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2015.
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