Captain Babar Azam hit a fluent half century and spurred Pakistan to a six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in a Twenty20 international on Saturday. Azam made 82 off 55 balls to reach his 15th half century in Twenty20s as Pakistan eased to 157-4 in 18.5 overs for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Mohammad Hafeez scored 36 off 32 balls and together with Azam shared an 80-run stand as fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani finished with 2-26.
Earlier, 20-year-old Wesley Madhevere hit nine fours and a six to score an unbeaten 70 but Pakistan’s pace still restricted Zimbabwe at 156-6.
“I am quite satisfied with my innings today,” said Azam, who hit nine fours and a six in his knock. “I apply my game in the middle but the main thing is I enjoy the game.”
Azam got a life on 67 when Muzarabani dropped a regulation catch at long off, and Hafeez fell late in the run-chase. Azam holed out at deep mid-wicket when Pakistan required 15 for the win and Hafeez was clean bowled by Tendai Chatara when Pakistan needed just a run to seal the game.
Elton Chigumbura, who will retire after the series ends on Tuesday, made a quickfire 21 off 13 balls, but Zimbabwe’s top order struggled to accelerate against fast bowlers Haris Rauf (2-25), Wahab Riaz (2-37) and Mohammad Hasnain (1-25).
“I think we were 20 runs short (and) the middle period was not good for us,” Zimbabwe skipper Chamu Chibhabha said, adding he was impressed with young Madhevere’s batting.
“Madhevere took the responsibility. He’s pleasing to watch, he’s a good cricketer and takes responsibility.”
Madhevere held Zimbabwe’s innings together with his maiden Twenty20 half century after Chibhabha’s poor run of form continued on the tour when he won the toss and opted to bat first.
Chibhabha scored only 19 runs in the preceding ODI series which Zimbabwe lost 2-1 and fell for zero on Saturday when he was trapped leg before wicket by fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain in the first over.
Sean Williams and Brendan Taylor had good starts before falling to false shots. Taylor holed out at deep midwicket off Rauf after making 20 off 13 balls within the first six overs of batting powerplay. Leg-spinner Usman Qadir had Williams clean bowled off his eighth ball in his debut Twenty20 after the left-hander had made 25 off 24 balls.
Madhevere survived a close stumping appeal off Qadir, son of the late Pakistan leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, when he was on 36 but showed grit against pace with some impressive drives and pulled shots.
Chigumbura, who didn’t feature in the preceding ODI series against Pakistan, made some quick runs and pulled Riaz for a six and a straight four in the last over that enabled Zimbabwe to cross the 150-run mark. Chigumbura fell off the final ball when Hafeez took a sharp catch at point.
The second match will be played Sunday before Zimbabwe wraps up its limited-overs tour to Pakistan on Tuesday.