RAWALPINDI: Youngsters Haider Ali and Usman Qadir shared limelight while inspiring Pakistan to an unassailable 2-0 lead against Zimbabwe in their three-match Twenty20 International series with a clinical eight-wicket rout at the Pindi Cricket Stadium here on Sunday.
After restricting the tourists to an inadequate total of 135-7, Pakistan made short work of the modest target, which they reached with 29 deliveries to spare when Khushdil Shah pulled paceman Richard Ngarava to the boundary.
Pakistan’s 13th straight triumph over Zimbabwe, after having won the first game on Saturday by six wickets, was set up by the second-wicket partnership of exactly 100 from just 63 balls between captain Babar Azam and Haider with both scoring half-centuries on the way.
Once again, the big disappointment from the home side’s point of view was the early dismissal of Fakhar Zaman in the third over. The left-handed opener made just five before chipping Blessing Muzarabani a simple catch to mid-on where Elton Chigumbura — who will be ending his international career provided he plays in the Tuesday’s last game of the tour — made no mistake.
The same pair got also involved in the prized wicket of Babar, who departed after bludgeoning 51 from just 28 balls — the quickest of his 16 half-centuries in T20 Internationals — with Chigumbura clinging onto a brilliant take inside the fine-leg boundary when Babar top-edged a pull shot.
But the star of Pakistan’s chase undoubtedly was Haider, the 20-year-old who marked his T20 International with a half-century against England in early September. Making just his third appearance in this format, Haider produced an array of breathtaking strokes while unleashing six boundaries and three sixes.
The right-hander brought up his half-century in great style by smashing spinner Tendai Chisoro over the extra cover fence for a six to reach the milestone in mere 35 balls. Haider, who remained undefeated with 66 off 43 balls, was declared man-of-the-match.
In his post-match interview, Babar was all praise for Haider and Usman, who had earlier snared three wickets as did fast bowler Haris Rauf to derail Zimbabwe’s hopes of setting up a challenging total on the board.
“It is really exciting times for Pakistan cricket to see young players putting up their hands and doing the country proud. In this match we saw how well Usman bowled in the middle overs and then Haider showed he can be a star in the future,” Babar, who starred on Saturday with 82, remarked. “The most heartening aspect is that we are building up nicely for tough series in New Zealand. It’s always nice feeling to win the series and we are going to make sure we make a clean sweep of the [T20] series on Tuesday.”
Babar’s decision to bowl first at the toss was amply rewarded by excellent bowling performance as Zimbabwe found it tough to score freely. And once Haris had in-form Brendan Taylor (3) edging a catch to wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan in the second over, Zimbabwe were always struggling.
Chamu Chibhabha continued his woeful series as the Zimbabwe skipper was taken at midwicket to give Haris his second wicket after contributing only 15 runs.
Faheem Ashraf then forced Sean Williams (13) to get inside edge onto the stumps to leave Zimbabwe in deep trouble at 38-3. It was the turn of Usman — who like his legendary late father Abdul Qadir bowls leg-spinners and googlies — to strike. Sikandar Raza failed to read a googly and found himself bowled for only seven runs.
Wesley Madhevere looked like settling in as he struck three fours and one six but after making a 22-ball 24, he missed a sweep to be declared LBW as Zimbabwe slipped to 66-5 in the 10th over.
Usman also outfoxed Chigumbura to have the ex-Zimbabwe captain stumped by Rizwan for 18 before finishing with decent figures of 3-23 in four overs.
Of the rest, Ryan Burl top-scored with an unbeaten 32 with his 22-ball innings containing one six and a four, while Donald Tiripano became Haris’s third victim for scoring 15. Haris claimed 3-31 from four overs and Faheem bowled tidily in taking one for 20 in four overs, while Hasnain delivered four wicketless overs for 28 runs.
Chibhabha appeared dejected afterwards at Zimbabwe’s below-par team effort. “I thought the pitch was good for batting upfront. But we failed to take advantage of the excellent conditions. Credit to the Pakistan bowlers because they were hard to get away and never allow us to score quickly.”
B.R.M. Taylor c Rizwan b Haris 3
C.J. Chibhabha c Faheem b Haris 15
S.C. Williams b Faheem 13
W. Madhevere lbw b Usman 24
Sikandar Raza b Usman 7
R.P. Burl not out 32
E. Chigumbura st Rizwan b Usman 18
D.T. Tiripano c Fakhar b Haris 15
T.S. Chisoro not out 3
EXTRAS (LB-1, W-3) 4
TOTAL (for seven wkts, 20 overs) 134
FALL OF WKTS: 1-5, 2-30, 3-38, 4-65, 5-66, 6-90, 7-120.
DID NOT BAT: R. Ngarava, B. Muzarabani.
BOWLING: Mohammad Hasnain 4-0-28-0; Haris Rauf 4-0-31-3; Faheem Ashraf 4-0-20-1 (2w); Wahab Riaz 4-0-31-0 (1w); Usman Qadir 4-0-23-3.
Fakhar Zaman c Chigumbura b Muzarabani 5
Babar Azam c Chigumbura b Muzarabani 51
Haider Ali not out 66
Khushdil Shah not out 11
EXTRAS (LB-1, W-3) 4
TOTAL (for two wkts, 15.1 overs) 137
FALL OF WKTS: 1-10, 2-110.
DID NOT BAT: Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Faheem Ashraf, Wahab Riaz, Haris Rauf, Usman Qadir, Mohammad Hasnain.
BOWLING: Muzarabani 4-0-33-2 (2w); Ngarava 3.1-0-28-0; Tiripano 2-0-18-0; Chisoro 3-0-26-0; Williams 1-0-11-0; Sikandar Raza 1-0-8-0 (1w).
RESULT: Pakistan won by eight wickets to lead three-match series 2-0.
UMPIRES: Ahsan Raza (Pakistan) and Rashid Riaz (Pakistan).
TV UMPIRE: Aleem Dar (Pakistan).
MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Javed Malik (Pakistan).
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Haider Ali.
FIRST MATCH: Rawalpindi, Pakistan won by six wickets.
THIRD MATCH: Rawalpindi, Tuesday (3:30pm PST).