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Babar's 82 trumps Madhevere's 70* as Pakistan take lead

Pak v Zim, 1st T20I, report

Pakistan captain Babar Azam struck 82 as his side chased down Zimbabwe's 156/6 to win the first T20I by six wickets, with seven balls to spare.


After winning the toss and electing to bat first, Zimbabwe's innings got off to a shaky start as skipper Chamu Chibhabha was pinned leg before for a second-ball duck in Mohammad Hasnain's opening over. The experienced pair of Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams got the visitors back on track with a flurry of boundaries before Haris Rauf, on his birthday, had the former caught on the square leg boundary for 20.

That wicket allowed Pakistan to exert some pressure with the flow of runs drying up as Williams and Wesley Madhevere looked to rebuild. Debutant Usman Qadir, son of former Pakistan international Abdul Qadir, was hit for a six and four in his first over as the Chevrons began to accelerate, but he struck back in his next over to bowl Williams.

Sikandar Raza was bounced out by Wahab Riaz, and Ryan Burl struggled to find his timing, mustering only eight runs from 15 balls before edging Rauf on to his stumps. The 20-year-old Madhevere meanwhile kept the innings moving as he moved to a maiden T20I fifty, in only his third match, before celebrating with a pair of fours in the space of three balls from Hasnain.

Elton Chigumbura, whose retirement from international cricket at the end of this series was announced during the Zimbabwe innings, joined Madhevere for the final stretch, clattering two fours and a six in his 13-ball 21 as the visitors posted 156/6, with Chigumbura dismissed with the final ball.

Pakistan's reply got off to a strong start as Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam added 36 runs before Blessing Muzurabani had the former caught at mid-on for 19. Zimbabwe's bowlers then put the squeeze on, and had brought the run-rate under eight when Richard Ngarava produced a peach of a delivery to take Haider Ali's edge, with Taylor taking a catch to match behind the stumps.

The experienced Mohammad Hafeez joined Babar at the crease and provided the support needed to allow the skipper to sparkle. Showing the talent which has taken him to No.2 on the MRF Tyres ICC Men's T20I Batting Rankings, Babar displayed superb timing and control as he eased to a 15th T20I fifty and beyond.

By the time the home captain was dismissed, caught by Madhevere at deep mid-wicket off the bowling of Tendai Chatara, he had scored 82 from 55 balls, including nine fours and a six, and Pakistan needed only 15 runs from the final three overs. Muzurabani managed to squeeze one through Hafeez's defence to gain another wicket when the scores were level, with a leg bye off Mohammad Rizwan's pad finally wrapping up victory.

The result means Pakistan stretch a perfect record against Zimbabwe in T20Is to 12 matches, having won every encounter between the sides in the shortest format. The hosts will also now carry a 1-0 lead into the second T20I on Sunday, 8 November at the same venue.

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