A combination of bad light and an all-round good performance by captain Elton Chigumbura helped Zimbabwe hold on to a five-run victory according to the Duckworth/Lewis method in the second One Day International at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Zimbabwe’s win, which had initially looked certain before a fiery comeback by Pakistan, levelled the three-match ODI series at 1-1 and set up what should be an interesting series decider at the same venue tomorrow.
There was drama towards the end of the match as the umpires stopped play due to bad light with Pakistan needing 21 runs from the last two overs, handing Zimbabwe a controversial victory.
Pakistan would, however, feel hard done by the decision as their set batsman Shoaib Malik, who was left stranded on 96, missed out on an opportunity to not only reach a century, but also to guide his team over the line.
In an absorbing contest where the pendulum swung from one end to the other Pakistan won the toss and elected to field, hoping to put pressure on Zimbabwe’s faltering batting department.
However, for the first time in the series, Zimbabwe’s batsmen put on a brave display as a composed 90 from Chamu Chibhabha and a late flourish from Elton Chigumbura took Zimbabwe to a competitive 276 for six in their allotted 50 overs.
Chibhabha hit eight fours as he shared a 91-run second wicket partnership stand with Brian Chari, who scored 39 runs off 64 balls, before he was caught at first slip off the bowling of Mohammad Irfan in the 29th over.
Chari helped provide the stability the hosts needed after the early dismissal of Hamilton Masakadza, showing great composure for someone who was playing in only his second One Day International.
Given Zimbabwe’s poor record with the bat during this series, Chari’s dismissal could have been expected to trigger a batting collapse but for once the batsmen showed the resilience which has been lacking.
Chigumbura proved a timely reminder of how devastating he can be if given more time in the middle, smashing five fours and two huge sixes on his way to an impressive knock of 67 off just 55 deliveries.
He shared a crucial 59-run partnership stand with Chibhabha, with support from Sikander Raza (32), and accelerated to give the bowlers a competitive score to defend.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers were superb at the start as they bowled tight lines while the fielders held onto their catches to reduce Pakistan to 76 for six in pursuit of 277 for victory.
However, after initially looking dead and buried, Pakistan roared back into contention, courtesy of a 111-run partnership stand between Aamer Yamin (62) and Malik.
Zimbabwe would, however, be disappointed by their failure to finish off their opponents after a combination of poor fielding and some wayward bowling towards the end.
Yamin was dropped by John Nyumbu at slip while on 17 in the 22nd over before Tinotenda Mutombodzi put down Malik while on 37 in the 31st over.
After the long partnership, Zimbabwe was in desperate need of a hero and they got that from their skipper, who surprised some by deciding to bowl the 38th over, something he has not done since the World Cup in Australia.
While his first over went for eight runs, the breakthrough would finally come from the last ball of his second over when he had Yamin caught down the leg side to spark wild celebrations from the sizable home crowd.
Chigumbura was not done as he produced another moment of sheer brilliance to run out the dangerous Wahab Riaz for three runs. A passing breeze threatened to bring the match to a premature end, although Zimbabwe would have been happy as they were well ahead on the D/L score.
However, despite an unbeaten partnership of 63 runs between Malik and Yasir Shah, it was not enough to take Pakistan home as the match was stopped due to bad light.