Zimbabwe goes into second match in Harare facing a must-win situation after losing the first ODI
Zimbabwe goes into the second One-Day International against Pakistan in Harare on Saturday (October 3), knowing that a win is imperative, since another loss will mean it has no chance to triumph in the three-match series.
So far, the home side has not been able to register any victory in the series, with Pakistan winning the both Twenty20 Internationals – by 13 and 15 runs respectively – in closely fought encounters. Pakistan was then propelled by Yasir Shah in the first ODI in Harare on Thursday, his career-best 6 for 26 helping register a massive 131-run win.
Zimbabwe is now faced with a situation that requires it to win at all costs. Its last win came exactly two months ago, onAugust 2, when it beat a tough New Zealand side by seven wickets in an ODI. Crucial to that victory was its batting, as it chased 304 with an over to spare.
But the runs dried up for Zimbabwe in the months thereafter, and that has been at the root of its problems. It was in evidence during the T20Is, when it totalled 121 and 123 in the two matches. And it was again a problem in the ODI on Thursday, when it was bowled out for 128 in 37 overs, chasing a target of 260. Its highest scorer was Sean Williams, with his 31-ball 26, followed by captain Elton Chigumbura’s 30-ball 22, as the batsmen struggled to rotate strike and stitch together partnerships.
Afterwards, Yasir said the batsmen were troubled by his variations. "When I was coming here today from the hotel, my plan was very simple: just to bowl wicket-to-wicket and control my line and length, because this was my first game on this tour," he said. "That worked for me. The first thing was for me to control my line and length. In between that, there are varieties. I think the Zimbabwean batsmen weren't able to read my variations when I was bowling googlies or flippers or legbreaks, and that was troubling them a lot."
As far as its bowling was concerned, Zimbabwe fared only marginally better. It had Pakistan in trouble at 35 for 3, but its bowlers couldn’t capitalise on the advantage. Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed then steadied the ship with a 65-run stand for the fourth wicket, before Imad Wasim and Mohammad Rizwan scored half-centuries, putting on 124 for the sixth wicket to add gloss to the total.
Pakistan has had good performances all through. There was a display of grit, as its middle order remained solid despite the top order struggling. The pace bowlers excelled as well, even though it was the spinners who claimed all the wickets on Thursday.
Zimbabwe will need to lift its game in all departments if it is to push the series into a decider, and it will need its players – both batsmen and bowlers – to step up if it is to challenge a strong Pakistan side.
It is certainly capable of doing so. Chigumbura's move to No. 4 on ODIs has brought solidity, and in the likes of Sikandar Raza Butt and Williams, there is experience and the ability to withstand tough spells. With the ball, meanwhile, Graeme Cremer can be a handful on his day with his legspin, while Chamu Chibhabha’s form, with both bat and ball, will be crucial.
If Zimbabwe can string together a cohesive performance, it will be well-placed to keep the series alive.
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza Butt, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Neville Madziva, Hamilton Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Taurai Muzarabani, John Nyumbu, Tinashe Panyangara, Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.
Pakistan: Azhar Ali (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan, Immad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Shafiq, Bilal Ali.