Pakistan won by 24 runs
A brilliant innings of 59 by Wessly Madhevere put Zimbabwe in with a great chance of winning the third and final Twenty20 international (T20I) but in the end Pakistan prevailed, edging the home side by 24 runs at Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
The first two matches of this series had been won by the team batting first, so when Babar Azam won the toss for Pakistan he decided to bat first.
Sean Williams was declared fit and came back to captain Zimbabwe, replacing Tinashe Kamunhukamwe in the team.
Mohammad Rizwan and Sharjeel Khan opened the batting in good style for Pakistan, putting on 35 in the first five overs before Khan (18 off 15 balls) misjudged a slower ball from Luke Jongwe and skyed a catch to mid-off, where it was held by Blessing Muzarabani.
Azam joined Rizwan and the pair batted superbly, mastering the bowling, and when Azam reached 19 he broke the record to become the fastest scorer of 2 000 runs in T20I cricket.
Almost immediately afterwards Rizwan reached his fifty off 39 balls, and then the team hundred came up in the 14th over. Zimbabwe were handicapped as Madhevere had to leave the field with a hamstring problem and so was unable to bowl.
Although the Zimbabwe bowlers struggled with two fine batsmen going so well, they never allowed it to develop into a massacre until the 19th over, when they were hitting at everything and Muzarabani conceded 18 runs.
Jongwe took the last over and finally succeeded in dismissing Babar, who was well caught by Ryan Burl at long-on, having scored 52 off 46 balls. Fakhar Zaman came in, obliged to go for broke in the final over, and he was caught by Burl again in the deep first ball, both wickets falling at 159.
Rizwan faced the last two balls and Jongwe did well to restrict him to two twos, finishing on 91 not out, a magnificent innings off 60 balls, with two sixes and six fours.
The Pakistan total was 165 for three, a stiff target for Zimbabwe, and Jongwe took all three wickets for 37 runs in his four overs. Wellington Masakadza was the most economical bowler, with only 24 runs coming off his four overs.
Madhevere was fit to bat, and he opened the Zimbabwe innings with Tarisai Musakanda. Two fours and 11 runs off the first over, bowled by Mohammad Hasnain, gave Zimbabwe a good start.
Madhevere made good use of the powerplay, and the opening pair put on 37 before Musakanda, hitting across the line at Hasan Ali, was out lbw for 10. Tadiwanashe Marumani was soon underway, hitting two fine boundaries, and the pair continued to flourish in remarkable fashion for young players with so little experience.
After 10 overs Zimbabwe were very well placed at 78 for one, with the experienced Brendan Taylor and Williams still to come. But in a 20-over match any such situation is very delicate and can all too easily be overturned. One of his brilliant cover-driven boundaries brought Madhevere his fifty off 37 balls.
The team hundred came up in the 13th over, but at 102 Marumani, after a fine innings of 35 off 26 balls, swung across the line to Hasnain and edged the ball on to his stumps. Taylor did not find his touch immediately, and the required run rate now rose to more than 10 an over – 58 were needed off the last five overs, with the Pakistan bowlers now revitalised.
Madhevere then fell, under pressure to make a big hit off Ali and skying the ball for the wicketkeeper to run back and catch. He had made a superb 59 off 47 balls, with seven fours, and Zimbabwe were now 109 for three in the 16th over. Regis Chakabva came in, but he flicked the first ball he faced to backward square leg to be caught; 110 for four, and the initiative was now right back with Pakistan.
Sean Williams came in, and 54 were needed now off the final four overs. Experienced as Taylor and Williams are, they could not find their touch quickly enough – 46 were needed off the last three overs and 34 off the last two. Williams (9), obviously still struggling with his hand injury, was caught at long-on off Ali and with 31 needed off the final over Zimbabwe’s situation was now virtually hopeless.
It was bowled by Haris Rauf, and Jongwe was caught in the deep for five, while Taylor followed for 20. The final score was 141 for seven – Pakistan had won by 24 runs, but Zimbabwe had made them fight almost to the end.
The bowler who basically won the match for Pakistan was Hasan Ali, who returned the outstanding figures of four for 18 off four overs, and he was the player of the match. Pakistan thus won the series by two victories to one, but Zimbabwe, with their young team and handicapped by injuries, pushed them far closer than most people believed possible.
VIDEO: Here is Zimbabwe coach Lalchand Rajput addressing the post-match press conference: https://bit.ly/3dUr5lD