All over Zimbabwe

Pakistan have been at their absolutely best in the ODI series win over Zimbabwe, writes K Shahid

All over Zimbabwe
Pakistan will take on Zimbabwe in the fourth ODI today (Friday) after having already wrapped up the five match series after winning the third match on Wednesday. With a 3-0 unassailable lead, Pakistan would look to give their squad more of a run out, something that they had already implemented in the third match, as they look to complete a whitewash over their hosts.

Zimbabwe have managed to score a cumulative 368 runs in the three ODIs so far. Meanwhile, the Pakistani top order is having a blast with Fakhar Zaman building on his series-winning performances in the T20I tri-series that involved Australia, to pile on the runs in the longer format as well.

Faheem Ashraf

He has been joined by Imam-ul-Haq, who would have been disappointed to miss out on scoring in the 3rd ODI, and would have felt unfortunate not to have reached his fifty in the second match, after having been run out on 44.

Imam’s 128 in the first ODI bagged him the Man of the Match award as Pakistan scored 308/7 and restricted Zimbabwe to 107. Fakhar Zaman scored a half-century in that contest as well, and his scores in the first three ODIs read: 60, 117*, 43*.

Babar Azam, coming back from injury, is the only other batsman except the openers who could get an opportunity to come out and bat in the second and third ODIs, scoring 29* and 19* respectively. He would feel that he missed out on a potentially big score having gone out for 30 in the first ODI when he was looking good.

Fakhar Zaman

Given the abovementioned cumulative score that Zimbabwe have scored in the series, and the fact that Pakistan weren’t asked to chase down much in the second and third ODI – 194 and 67 – the bowlers are clearly having a ball out there as well.

While it was Shadab Khan’s 4/32 that helped dismiss Zimbabwe for 107 in 35 overs in the first ODI, it was Usman Khan Shinwari’s 4/36 in the second ODI that bundled Zimbabwe out for 194 in the second. Faheem Ashraf produced the spell of the series so far taking 5 wickets for 22 as the hosts could only muster 67 in the third ODI.

Hasan Ali took a three-for in the second ODI, while Junaid Khan took two wickets in his first match in the third ODI, after coming in for Mohammed Amir, who was rested.

The third ODI saw a host of changes with Junaid coming in for Amir and Yasir Shah coming in for Hasan Ali. Yasir was on the mark as well, conceding only 10 runs in his 7 overs and taking a wicket as well. With Test series against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa coming over the next six months, Yasir is going to be an integral cog in the Test machine.

That the team could bring the likes of Junaid and Yasir from the bench shows the debt that the side has in the bowling department. And while the batting depth hasn’t had to be called upon, Asif Ali’s 25-ball 46, which eventually ensured that Pakistan crossed the 300 mark in the first ODI, showed that following his exploits in the T20s, he’s gradually finding his feet in the 50-over format as well.

After the drubbing in the ODIs against New Zealand, a convincing win against Zimbabwe is crucial to get the team back on track. While it’s not exactly the biggest challenge in the world, the win would help Pakistan build forward with the Asia Cup in September, following by series against Australia and New Zealand in the UAE, after which the South Africa tour comes.

Even so, with the ODI World Cup less than a year away, all preparations should focus on that tournament, with many already billing Pakistan as being among the favourites, especially after the Champions Trophy win last year. A run of series wins to mirror their T20I exploits and Pakistan could enter the World Cup next year as the team to beat.