It is said that the shorter the format of a cricket match, the lesser the difference between the team will be. That is, the chances of upset are higher if two teams are face-to-face in a Twenty20. But in Harare, it was the other way round. The way Pakistan crushed Zimbabwe in the T20 series and the way the hosts have risen like a phoenix in the first ODI suggest the theory doesn’t hold water. Zimbabwe’s seven-wicket victory has undoubtedly come as a stunning blow to Pakistan’s pride.

[caption id="attachment_2253" align="alignright" width="234"]Wonderful six by Sean Williams and a memorable win for Zimbabwe (Photo: AP) Wonderful six by Sean Williams and a memorable win for Zimbabwe (Photo: AP)[/caption]

It’s Zimbabwe’s first win over Pakistan in 15 years. The last time they beat Pakistan was back in 1998 when the green shirts lost the one-dayer by six wickets. But then, Zimbabwe were in their prime. And now, they are in depths of despair. Hamilton Masakadza’s 85-run riveting knock was surely the catalyst for the victory. The victory – Zimbabwe’s first against any team since October 2011 –has helped them take 1-0 lead in the five-match series.

Masakadza made a partnership of 107 runs with Vusi Sibanda, laying the foundations of victory. The innings of captain Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams were also significant as both players stood firm against classy Pakistani bowlers. Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi – who have high standing in different formats of the game – could not defend a target of 245 runs.

Zimbabwe’s opening stand ended in the 24th over when Sibanda was lbw by Ajmal. It was exactly the time when the tourists were in the position to turn the tables. But Masakadza and Taylor deprived Pakistan of that chance and a 69-run partnership for the second wicket took the game in an exciting phase. After the dismissals of Sibanda (54 off 82) and Masakadza (85 off 104), the responsibility was on skipper’s shoulders. And he did his job well. Sean Williams also shared his part with his quick 23-ball innings in which he made 39 runs, hitting a 6 and four 4s. Taylor remained not out on 43(59) and the hosts sailed to victory, thanks to the winning six by Williams in the 49th over.

Pakistani bowlers could only claim three wickets – two by Ajmal and one by Junaid.

Earlier, Pakistan elected to bat and started their innings with a slow start of 56 runs. Ahmed Shehzad failed to perform the way he did in the T20 series, and was back to the dressing room after scoring just 24 runs on 47 balls. Nasir Jamshed scored 27 runs on 53 balls. Pakistan lost both openers on 80.

Mohammad Hafeez and Misbah-ul-Haq posted a partnership of 99 runs for the third wicket. Hafeez’s 70 off 71 and Misbah’s 83 off 85 provided a platform to the upcoming batsmen, but they failed to make use of the innings. The team’s batting line-up got a blow as Umar Amin,1; Afridi, 11; Haris Sohail, 2; and Sarfaraz Ahmed, 7; lost their wickets successively. This slowed the pace of runs and when the 50 overs were completed, Pakistan could only make 244 runs at the loss of 7 wickets.

Brian Vitori and Tendai Chatara took two wickets apiece, whereas Prosper Utseya clinched one.

Hamilton Masakadza was declared as the player of the match.

Let’s see what strategy would be adopted by Pakistan in the second ODI on Aug 29 after their spinners’ failure in the first. Moreover, the tourists also need to check their fielding. Their sloppy fielding and missed catches suggested that they had taken Zimbabwe for granted after beating them in the T20s. And it’s evident how this thinking culminated in the seven-wicket loss.
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