Shoaib’s brilliant comeback overshadows Chigumbura’s valiant ton

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Pakistan: 375/3 (50 overs)

Zimbabwe: 334/5 (50 overs)

Pakistan won by 41 runs.

Lahore:  A terrific hundred by Shoaib Malik in his comeback game overshadowed Elton Chigumbura’s valiant ton as Pakistan took a 1-0 lead in the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe. Opting to bat first, Azhar Ali (79 off 76) and Mohammad Hafeez (86 off 83) put on 170 runs for the opening wicket to provide Pakistan a superb platform. Malik, playing his first ODI in two years, then took over as he blazed to 112 off only 76 deliveries and added 201 runs for the third wicket with Haris Sohail (89* off 66) to power the hosts to 375/3. In reply, Elton Chigumbura (117 off 95) and Hamilton Masakadza (73 off 73) came up with fighting knocks, but that was not enough to prevent Pakistan from winning the game by 41 runs, which gave Azhar his first victory as ODI skipper.

There was plenty of entertainment for the fans who had flocked to the Gadaffi stadium in Lahore to watch Pakistan play their first ODI at home since 24th January 2009. While Azhar and Hafeez got off to a sedate start, they made up for it by scoring brisk half-centuries to surpass Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt’s record (151) for Pakistan’s highest opening stand at the Gadaffi stadium. Prosper Utseya managed to send back the openers in consecutive overs as Zimbabwe tried to cut down the run flow. However, Malik and Sohail built on the platform laid by Azhar and Hafeez to power Pakistan towards a big total.

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The third-wicket pair rotated the strike well, made sure to put away bad deliveries and took some calculated risks from time to keep the scoring rate on the positive. They used the batting powerplay to good effect, scoring 41 runs in the five overs. Even when the fielding restrictions were lifted, it did not have any bearing on the scoring rate as Malik and Sohail powered the hosts past 300 in the 43rd over. Runs came thick and fast in the death overs and it was celebration time for Malik in the penultimate over as he registered his 8th ODI ton – his first fifty-plus score in 31 innings. Malik got out to Tinashe Panganyara off the final delivery as Pakistan ended up with their second highest total in one-day cricket.

Sikandar Raza and Vusi Sibanda started positively in Zimbabwe’s chase. There were a few edges that went clear of the fielders, but that did not dissuade the openers from going for their shots as they brought up the half-century stand in quick time. However, the partnership came to a premature end as Raza (36) fell to Anwar Ali. Riaz was unlucky not to have picked up the wicket of Masakadza in the 13th over – the batsman appeared to have top-edged a pull to the keeper, only for the umpire to think otherwise. Riaz though was a happy bowler at the end of the over as he managed to send back Sibanda (23).214253.3

Masakadza helped Zimbabwe recover from the quick losses by putting on a positive stand with Chigumbura. Masakadza went on to bring up his 27th ODI fifty while Chigumbura also crossed the half-century mark soon after and the third-wicket pair registered a century stand. Despite Masakadza and Chigumbura doing a good job, the visitors still had a steep climb as the required rate kept creeping up. Masakadza, in his attempt to bring the scoring rate down, managed a couple of big hits before getting out to Malik.

Chigumbura, had a lucky break when he was put down by Azam off Riaz, and he capitalised on that by putting on a half-century stand with Sean Williams. The fourth-wicket pair managed 40 runs in the batting powerplay, but the equation still appeared uphill as Zimbabwe needed 136 to get off the last 10 overs. Riaz sent back Williams in the 43rd over to end a partnership worth 74 runs off 55 deliveries. In the following over, Chigumbura got to his maiden ODI ton in style by taking the attack to Sami, smashing three sixes and a four. However, once Riaz brought an end to Chigumbura’s entertaining knock in the 45th over, Zimbabwe could only reach their highest score against a Test-playing nation, ending up with 334/5.

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