Zimbabwe put up an inspirational effort with the ball to defend a paltry 118 and win by 19 runs to record their first-ever T20I victor over Pakistan. Luke Jongwe led from the front with a four-wicket haul on a sluggish pitch to stun the visitors in the second T20I at the Harare Sports Club, on Friday, to level the series 1-1.
You got to bowl first in Zimbabwe, don’t you?
With the game being played on the same surface as Wednesday, stroke-making wasn’t expected to be easy and keeping in mind whatever tackiness that would exist in the morning, Babar Azam asked the hosts to bat first.
Forceful and thoughtful changes
Brendan Taylor was back as Zimbabwe’s captain after missing the first game due to a gastrointestinal infection and he replaced Sean Williams. Tarisai Musakanda came in for Craig Ervine, who was sidelined due to a calf injury,
Pakistan lost wickets at regular intervals in the middle overs in the first game, so they got back Asif Ali in place of Haider Ali, Arshad Iqbal debuted taking Mohammad Nawaz’s place.
Kamunhukamwe just wouldn’t get it off the square!
Taylor came out to open with Tinashe Kamunhukamwe. Kamunhukamwe took strike and took too much strike in fact, facing 19 balls in the first four overs. Lack of rotation and runs put pressure on the captain and he perished – miscue caught off Faheem Ashraf – in the fifth over.
Debutant Arshad Iqbal then bowled a nasty bouncer to smash the helmet and cover of the lid fell on the ground. Concerned players surrounded the batsman but Kamunhukamwe was thankfully good to carry on. He was then dropped next over off leggie Usman Qadir, but he didn’t make use of the life and fell to Danish Aziz for a 40-ball 34. End of a painful stay at the crease.
Meanwhile, Iqbal had Tadiwanashe Marumani caught behind in his second over to open his account in international cricket.
Musakanda, Chakabva press the accelerator, but Pakistan hit back
Things looked awful when Zimbabwe were 83/5 in the 15th over. But Tarisai Musakanda and Regis Chakabva managed a 17-run over off Aziz to stitch a 25-run stand off 18 balls to push the rate slightly up. However, Mohammad Hasnain and Haris Rauf closed out the innings pretty well to restrict Zimbabwe to a paltry 118/9. The asking rate was not even six runs per over. A cakewalk for a good side like Pakistan.
Taylor got his boys into a huddle and Zimbabwe came out with a very disciplined start understanding the sluggish nature of the pitch. They bowled wicket to wicket, took pace off and kept the batsmen honest. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan were not able to get away easily. Pakistan 21 for no loss in 5 overs.
Enter Luke Jongwe. Zimbabwe’s valuable player with bat and ball, player of the first match. Straightaway he played his tricks and outsmarted Rizwan with a well-disguised slower ball, Rizwan playing early and chipping straight to the man at cover. Fakhar Zaman joined Babar, but was kept quiet and in the act of trying to break the shackles, he hit Ryan Burl straight to Musakanda at long-on. 37/2 in 8 overs.
Mohammad Hafeez came to the crease and the experienced duo was expected to absorb pressure but Hafeez mistimed and holed out to long-on, again off Burl. 57/3 in 12 overs. Zimbabwe believed.
The squeeze from Zimbabwe
Babar tried to bat deep while Danish Aziz attempted a few hits but Zimbabwe didn’t concede a boundary for almost four overs. The set Babar thought he could find one and went hard, but mishit it to deep cover and walked back for 41. Jongwe the star again with the ball. Pakistan under serious pressure at 79/4 in 16 overs, needing 40 runs off 24 balls.
Asif Ali was brought in to strengthen the middle-order but he perished next over, a soft dismissal to cover in the next over. Jongwe turned the heat further with a boundary-less 18th over that costed just six runs. Muzarabani then knocked the wind out of Pakistan’s sail by getting Faheem Ashar and Danish Aziz in the same over.
Jongwe was in charge of the last over with Pakistan needing 20 runs, but he made life hell for batters with his cutters as they failed to connect and Pakistan lost their last five wickets in 11 balls to give Zimbabwe their first ever win in T20Is against Pakistan. Jongwe the Player of the Match again.
The joy of making history was evident in each of Zimbabwe’s players and support staff as Brendan Taylor led his country to a victory on his captaincy return after six years.
Before the start of the game, Taylor said his side needs to improve the fielding and Zimbabwe’s fielding today was indeed pretty good. “Big turnaround from the first game and that’s all that you can ask from your players. They executed the plans superbly,” Taylor said with a smile on his face after the game.
“The ball was stopping on the surface a bit and was two-paced. But it’s no excuse, we’re professionals and need to deal with it,” said a disappointed Babar Azam.
Yes, teams bowl first in Zimbabwe because of the tackiness in the morning, but was Pakistan’s call today justified considering they were playing on an already used pitch? Usually, early moisture is cited as a reason for captains to bowl, but there was none on offer today because it was a used pitch. And it was not even a night game for dew to ease the pitch for batting in the second half. It only gets drier and tough to bat like it does in Tests in a day game.
Pakistan made a change to strengthen the middle-order today but it didn’t work today. The series is now 1-1 and what are they going to discuss about this loss?
What next for the teams?
Zimbabwe came close in the first game, overcame in the second and have now forced a decider on Sunday. Will Pakistan make changes for the third game with the series on the line? We will wait and watch.
Brief scores:Zimbabwe118/9 Kamunhukamwe 34(40), Chakabva 18(14); Mohammad Hasnain 2/19, Danish Aziz 2/29, Arshad Iqbal 1/16 beat Pakistan 99 all-out Babar Azam 41(45), Danish Aziz 22(24); Luke Jongwe 4/18, Ryan Burl 2/21.