Azhar’s form has been Pakistan’s biggest takeaway ever since he returned to the side as its captain post Misbah-ul-Haq’s retirement. With two centuries and two fifties, one of which came in the first game of the ongoing series, he has walked the talk.
The most important aspect of the century was the manner in which he built the innings and stitched three important partnerships to help Pakistan chase down a target in excess of 250 for only the third time over the last four years.
Pakistan would be hoping that Azhar takes his form into the final match of the series at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Sunday (May 31), as it attempts its first clean sweep since December 2011.
Azhar apart, Pakistan has been well served by Sohail, who has so far collected 141 runs in this series. The duo has received good support from Shoaib Malik, who marked his return to international cricket after two years with his first century since September 2009, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz, who leads the bowling charts with five scalps.
What struck the most about Pakistan’s win in the second game was the manner in which Azhar and Asad Shafiq constructed the chase in their 85-run partnership for the third wicket. Even though Zimbabwe’s spinners applied pressure on a slow surface by bowling a lot of dot balls, the pair remained unfazed and collected occasional boundaries to chip away at the target.
After them, Sohail and Malik finished the job. That Malik has managed to record a strike-rate of 154.16 is another positive for Pakistan from this series.
From Zimbabwe’s point of view, the two losses has offered some silver linings. Elton Chigumbura, who was handed a two-match suspension because of slow over-rate, made an attractive maiden century in the first game. And Sikandar Raza’s unbeaten 84-ball 100 and Chamu Chibhaba’s measured 99 in the second clash offered a glimpse of the country’s healthy batting stocks. In the bowling department, Graeme Cremer was sharp in the last match where he conceded just two fours and bowled 22 dot balls in his ten-over spell.
Zimbabwe would expect others to come good and end the historic tour on a match-winning note.