Zimbabwe278 for 6 (Williams 118*, Taylor 56, Raza 45, Hasnain 5-26) vs Pakistan
Pakistan might have entertained hopes of a speedy finish when Zimbabwe lost their first three wickets for 22, all to Mohammad Hasnain, but a remarkable fightback, led by a fourth ODI century from Sean Williams, powered the visiting side to 278 for 6, their highest total in three games. Hasnain produced perhaps the bowling performance of the series, taking five of the six wickets to fall, while bowling three maidens and conceding just 26 runs. It should have been his day, but Williams might just have shaded him by the halfway mark of the match.
Zimbabwe won another toss and decided to have another crack at putting up a respectable score, but Hasnain looked to have doused those hopes in record time. Playing his first match of the series, he struck off just his third ball, removing Zimbabwe captain Chamu Chibhabha, before coming back to knock back Brian Chari’s stumps to ensure another failure on the part of the openers to establish a foundation for their side. Things became even direr when Hasnain, spitting fire with almost every ball, had Craig Ervine nicking off to Mohammad Rizwan. Zimbabwe’s top order had been shredded apart, and Pakistan were so far ahead of the game within four overs the game looked over.
Enter Brendan Taylor and Williams. Williams allowed the in-form Taylor to take charge in the early stages, cautiously negotiating Hasnain while trying to get runs ticking over against the other bowlers. Before long, they had brought up the 50-run partnership, and while they were still not out of the woods, the bloodletting had stopped, and the swing of momentum had been initiated.
Taylor brought up his half-century before Zimbabwe’s hundred came up, but Hasnain returned, and it was his pace that brought the 84-run partnership to the end, Taylor’s bat turning in his hand as he fed the simplest of catches to debutant Khushdil Shah at extra cover.
Williams and Wesley Madhevere combined for a punchy little partnership, with the 20-year-old taking a few risks that relieved some of the pressure on the senior batsman. Iftikhar Ahmed was not allowed to settle, with Madhevere taking the lead from Williams and smacking him for three fours in two overs, and suddenly the run rate began to look sharp. The issue, however, was still the long tail and the number of wickets that had been lost, and when Madhevere’s cameo ended, once again by the irrepressible Hasnain, Williams and Sikandar Raza became the last line of defence.
It helped that Williams was in some of the best form of his career in those final few overs. Striking the ball cleanly while caressing it with confidence when needed, Williams ensured that no bowler besides Hasnain was able to establish control. Shaheen Afridi was uncharacteristically toothless while Mohammad Musa and Wahab Riaz were punished each time they sent down a loose delivery – and often even when they didn’t.
Raza’s 36-ball 45 helped the total go past 275, and it wasn’t until the penultimate delivery of the match, when Riaz knocked back Raza’s stumps, that anyone besides Hasnain took a wicket. By then, however, Zimbabwe’s spirited fightback had given them a fighting chance that may yet see them come away with something to show for this series.