Harare, Zimbabwe – Captain Misbah-ul-Haq scored a steady half-century and effected two crucial run-outs as Pakistan clinched the one-day series against Zimbabwe with a sizeable win in Saturday's third and final match.
Misbah's 67 proved to be the top score in the game as Pakistan posted a total of 260 for six, before bowling Zimbabwe out in 40 overs to win by 108 runs and complete a 2-1 series victory.
The series decider had been cast into doubt after Zimbabwe's players threatened to boycott the match over unpaid salaries and match fees, but the home side took the field after setting a new ultimatum for the first Test on Tuesday.
For a side with off-field distractions, the Zimbabweans started surprisingly well in the field after Brendan Taylor had won the toss and asked Pakistan to bat on a slow surface.
The tourists made a circumspect start with openers Ahmed Shehzad and Nasir Jamshed putting on 66 for the first wicket at a sluggish pace, and the innings became stilted when Jamshed departed and Mohammad Hafeez was forced to retire hurt soon after.
Although Misbah at one stage appeared overly cautious in scoring just 16 from his first 45 deliveries, the tactic was vindicated as the stability it provided allowed Pakistan to score 120 in the final 13 overs.
“I was really struggling because the ball wasn't coming onto the bat,” said Misbah.
“There was a bit of inconsistent bounce and inconsistent pace, so I just made sure we played all 50 overs and if we could score 250 or more that could be really defendable on this pitch.”
While Shehzad contributed 54, Umar Amin was crucial in adding momentum to the innings as he struck a brisk 33, while Sarfraz Ahmed and the returning Hafeez also weighed in during a late flurry that lifted Pakistan to a solid score.
Zimbabwe's reply never really got going, and was hampered by run-outs to key batsmen.
Captain Brendan Taylor made a promising 26 before Misbah's direct hit accounted for his opposite number, while Sean Williams was also dismissed by the Pakistani skipper.
After Zimbabwe had collapsed to 87 for six in the 23rd over, Malcolm Waller and Prosper Utseya put on 58 for the next wicket before the latter was run out in a mix-up.
Waller was the last man out for 48 when he got a leading edge off the bowling of Saeed Ajmal, as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 152.
“We were definitely up for it today and we restricted them to a total that we felt comfortable chasing, but there was maybe a bit of panic there when it was time to chase it down,” Taylor said.
“All in all I think we can take a lot of heart out of the series - they came back strong as we expected, but there were definitely a lot of positives we can take away.” – AFP