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Zimbabwe force Pakistan to dig deep for victory

Pakistan – 281-8 in 50 overs (Haris Sohail 71, Imam-ul-Haq 58, Imad Wasim 34*; Tendai Chisoro 2/31, Blessing Muzarabani 2/39, Sikandar Raza 1/45)

Zimbabwe – 255 all out in 49.4 overs (Brendan Taylor 112, Wessly Madhevere 55, Craig Ervine 41; Shaheen Shah Afridi 5/49, Wahab Riaz 4/41, Imad Wasim 1/49)

Pakistan won by 26 runs

Brendan Taylor scored a brilliant century as Zimbabwe forced Pakistan to dig deep for a 26-run victory in the first one-day international (ODI) match played in Rawalpindi on Friday. The tourists had appeared on course for an upset win, as Taylor and Wessly Madhevere, who finished with a career-best 55, led their fightback with a solid fifth-wicket stand of 119.

Pakistan won by 26 runs against Zimbabwe in the series-opening one-day international at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Friday. Pakistan lead the three-match ODI series 1-0.

Chasing 282 to win, Zimbabwe got off to a stuttering start, losing the openers Brian Chari (2) and Chamu Chibhabha (13) within the first five overs, with a total of 28 runs on the board.

A doughty 41 from Craig Ervine helped repair the damage as he and Taylor added 71 runs for the third wicket.

Zimbabwe were, however, soon pegged back again, slipping to 115 for four in the 27th over after losing in quick succession the key wickets of Ervine and Sean Williams, the latter only managing four runs off the 14 deliveries he faced.

Six deliveries later, Taylor — now with Madhevere in at the other end — took his score past fifty, sweeping Imad Wasim away past deep square leg for four to reach the milestone.

In the next over, Madhevere got off the mark with a boundary, attempting to defend but then edging the delivery to third man fence.

If it appeared a bit untidy, he showed his assuredness two balls later by beautifully timing a short delivery that he pulled away over midwicket for another four.

And with that, Zimbabwe’s fightback was well underway.

As the partnership grew in confidence, the team 150 came up in style, Taylor going down on one knee to hoist the final ball of the 32nd over above long-on for a big six that also took his score to 65.

The pair rotated the strike well as they continued to gnaw away at the home side’s advantage, bringing Zimbabwe’s total past 200 in the 41st over.

Madhevere, playing only in his fourth ODI, soon raised his bat for his own fifty, sweeping away down to fine leg for his seventh boundary, having faced 53 deliveries for the brilliant half-century.

In the next over, Taylor brought up his 11th ODI century, tapping a good-length ball to the off side for a quick single to bring up the ton.

When the partnership was eventually broken, Madhevere perishing as he tried to play across the line only to miss and see the ball hitting his middle stump, Zimbabwe now needed 48 runs, with five wickets in hand, from 28 balls.

With Sikandar Raza coming in to join Taylor, the target was still very much within reach.

Even when Taylor’s wicket eventually fell – his fantastic knock of 112, which included 11 fours and three sixes, coming off 117 deliveries – the tourists were still fancying their chances of recording an upset victory.

But then, Raza never got going – backing away, he tried to run it down to third man, but missed the line and got bowled, departing for eight, with one boundary, off seven balls.

His dismissal totally scuttled Zimbabwe’s hopes, with the tail only managing to add 10 runs before the tourists were skittled for 255 with two balls to go.

Shaheen Shah Afridi grabbed five wickets while Wahab Riaz took four as Pakistan survived the scare.

Earlier, Zimbabwe had impressed in restricting Pakistan to 281 for eight on a flat wicket that was expected to serve up a run fest.

Haris Sohail and Imam-ul-Haq top-scored for the home side with 71 and 58 respectively, while Imad Wasim chipped in with an unbeaten 34.

Tendai Chisoro and Blessing Muzarabani grabbed two wickets apiece.

The next ODI is pencilled in for Sunday at the same venue.